Nick Ota-Wang (left) with teammates at 2U Company Meeting 2019
This story is a part of our ‘A Day in the Life’ series that highlights the career journeys of 2U employees across the world. Throughout June we’re celebrating Pride month and featuring members of one of our Business Resource Networks: 2Q.
Nick Ota-Wang’s love for education started at an early age. In eighth grade, Nick’s US History teacher asked his class to re-write the Declaration of Independence in their own words. It was an opportunity he treasured and one he attributes to his belief that educators are one of the main changemakers in the world. Since then, Nick’s passion for helping others through education has only grown.
Born in Denver, Colorado, Nick got his start in education where he was raised. He first served as an admissions counselor for all of the Master of Social Work (MSW) and Ph.D. programs at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work. Then he assumed the role of undergraduate academic advisor at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs for many students with a similar passion to his own.
Now, Nick continues to pursue his passion at 2U, Inc., and school. By day, he’s a student success advisor, and by night, he’s on the path to earning an MA in History from the University of Colorado Denver.
Read on to learn about Nick’s career, his fascination with education, and his thoughts on Pride month.
Why did you join 2U? What is it about the company that sparked your interest?
I joined 2U because I wanted to expand my professional lens into a part of higher education that I had not personally experienced as a student or professional—online learning. I knew I had a love for advising, mentoring, and teaching students. And the opportunity to work with online students for a company focused on ensuring students have equal experiences and opportunities was appealing.
Additionally, when I heard that the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Denver was partnering with 2U to launch their online MSW program, I knew that 2U had to be amazing. GSSW partners with only the best!
How would you describe your role as a student success advisor?
As a student success advisor, I am the first point of contact for MSW students. Students connect with me about academic, personal, professional, and relationship questions and/or issues. My role is to be the person that students can come to at any time while they are going through their degree and be their coach, their cheerleader, and one of their main supports!
What do you find most rewarding and challenging about your job?
Relationships matter. That is the most rewarding part of my job for me. Getting to build, maintain, and celebrate students through a strong relationship makes coming into work every day truly amazing!
One of the most challenging parts of my job is also tied to relationships. Maintaining and earning the trust of students is a challenge, but a wonderful challenge. Learning about each student's goals and helping them achieve their dreams makes what I do so rewarding!
Nick Ota-Wang (lower left) with members of the Student Success team
What’s your favorite part about working at 2U?
I truly love how we are encouraged to be innovative. We may do things one way today, but that does not mean tomorrow we cannot come up with a new and innovative way to help make our jobs and lives easier. One colleague said to me “if you see something wrong, don’t only say something—come up with a solution.” I do not know many places where you can discuss a process change with ease and welcome.
You are currently working on your MA in History while working full-time at 2U. How do you balance both?
Balancing school and work is challenging, especially since my master’s degree has very little to do with my job at 2U. Part of the balance for me is ensuring I do not bring work home with me, and that I do not bring school with me to work. Time management and keeping a very organized electronic calendar help me balance it all.
How has culture played a role in your career?
When I think of culture, I think of identity. The culture of an organization helps define how and why you are excited to be part of a community. One thing I look for in an organization is a strong culture, and that’s what I have found at 2U.
What does Pride month mean to you?
As a queer, gay, Asian and white, cisgender male, Pride is everything to me. Pride month, in particular, is important because it helps celebrate some of the coolest humans alive: those within the LGBT community. Being gay and out is not easy, especially professionally. Pride month, for me, is a time for everyone to celebrate an identity that crosses race, religion, ethnicity, and country borders. Plus, who doesn’t love a little rainbow in their life?
What is your most treasured memory from 2Q, 2U's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer & Allies Business Resource Network, and why?
In June 2019, I had the privilege of being able to travel to New York City to help celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. On the Friday of Pride weekend, I had to work half a day and went to 2U’s Brooklyn office. The Brooklyn team had put together a trivia sheet and had planned time and events throughout the weekend. Seeing the community of proud LGBT individuals in the Brooklyn office, even if it was a small and mighty group, is by far my favorite memory of 2Q!
What are you doing to celebrate Pride month this year?
As an LGBT Historian, I’m celebrating by reading and writing about LGBT History. I’m also sharing fun facts, history, and remembrances about the LGBT community on my social media throughout the month of June. You can check out my tweets at @NickOtaWang.
At 2U, I'm celebrating by helping to plan and host our trivia day on June 30. Interested? Here’s one quick fun bit of trivia for you: The Mattachine Society, which was a Homophile Organization of mainly gay white men, was founded in 1950 in California. 2U has offices in cities that had chapters of the Mattachine Society in the 1950s! I also recently gave a talk about the Mattachine Society and another organization, the Daughters of Bilitis. You can find this talk on YouTube.
Out of everything you’ve done at 2U so far, what are you proudest of?
I’m proudest of my leadership with the Launching Student Success Advisor group. This group was started to provide student success advisors with a monthly space to come to chat through their celebrations, struggles, and seek advice from fellow 2Utes on how to best help our partners and their students. Through this group, I have the honor of working with so many talented colleagues who continuously impress me with their collaboration, teamwork, and ability to have fun.
What advice would you give to someone just starting at 2U?
Build yourself an amazing community from the start. I still talk to my start date buddies even though we are all in different roles now. Get to know other teams and get your name out there as early as you can. 2U has many amazing humans, and getting to know as many as you can will be helpful to your success as a 2Ute!
Is there anything else you would like to share?
As we wrap up Pride month, I want to celebrate the fact that the LGBT community has come so far. I’m proud I can be out and share my story with my colleagues in this way. Thank you to all the 2Utes, my family, my friends, and everyone who supports me, and everyone who celebrates Pride month this year, Pride each day, and Pride every year. Thank you!
Are you interested in a job like Nick’s? Check out our Student Engagement page for information on open positions. We’re hiring.
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