Managing a heavy academic workload and serving as an undergraduate researcher at the University of Arizona, Shiana Ferng found that being a meditation facilitator helped provide the balance necessary to handle her daily responsibilities and engage in life beyond the classroom and lab.
Ferng, who was accepted into the Undergraduate Biology Research Program, which placed her in UA research labs, was an ambassador to the UA's BIO5 Institute and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. She also served as a patient care assistant at the UA Movement Disorders Clinic, was a lead public affairs assistant at BIO5, and was a graduate teaching assistant for the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Helath.
Also at the UA, she became involved with the Falun Dafa Club, a student-led organization that advances traditional Chinese culture and practices based on compassion, truthfulness and tolerance, meant to aid in mind-body alignment.
"It provided me a foundation of openness and patience," said Ferng, who has continued her work as a meditation leader. "It has helped me with my life and it’s something I want to share with people."
Ferng's academic and professional interests required a tremendous amount of balance.
"I selected each of my jobs because I was interested in exploring all facets of science and health care, from research, clinical care, marketing and communications, public health and management," said Ferng, who earned graduated from the UA in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry and two master's degrees, one in public health and another in business administration.
Ferng said the classroom learning and intense research at the UA coupled with her service work, especially her involvement with the Falun Dafa Club, helped prepare her for her current position as an operations program manager for Microsoft in Nevada.
There, she has continued her practice, teaching weekly meditation classes at Microsoft's Reno campus while also strategizing new business opportunities and partnerships for Microsoft through cross-functional teams. Her role also is aimed at optimizing the way people work, which ties back to her Falun Dafa focus.
"Falun Dafa is a mind-body cultivation practice rooted in Eastern culture and centered around the principles of truthfulness, compassion and forbearance," Ferng said, adding that she understood the significance one person could have either as a mediation meditation leader or being an advocate for awareness. Her involvement with Falun Dafa dates to 2007. During that time, she would facilitate mindfulness sessions at parks and during cultural events on and off campus.
Ferng said her time at the UA gave her the necessary place to grow, allowing her to fully develop into the person she wanted to be. She also interned at the UA Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, which solidified her desire to study biochemistry. She focused on diabetes research and, later while working in the Department of Neurology, conducted research on Parkinson's disease.
"My experience at the UA gave me the confidence to effect change as one individual through being open and honest about my passions and seeking community support," Ferng said.
She knew early on that she would choose the UA. In high school, she began working in a research lab through what is now called the University's KEYS (Keep Engaging Youth in Science) Program, a summer opportunity that involves Arizona high school students in bioscience, engineering, environmental health, and biostatistics education and research. She soon became attuned to the UA's committement to supporting undergraduate student research.
"As a high school student researcher, I was exposed to the incredible growth opportunities and welcoming community the UA offered," Ferng said. "It's not everywhere that faculty both encourage and train high school students to own and drive college-level research projects."
Two years after graduating, Ferng continues to be a part of the Wildcat community, and she has recruited students for Microsoft internships.
"This is huge for me because I want to give opportunities to those who may be limiting themselves to certain industries or job titles based on their degree or past work experience," she said.
And that is related to her advice to others: "Don't limit yourselves in what you think you can do. If you pursue what you are passionate about, through extracurricular activities and academically, transferable skills will naturally be developed."