By Nicki Sun
Talking to Kathy Chow is like reading every edition of “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” And watch out, AAJA – she is in talks about authoring her own, inspirational book.
As AAJA’s Executive Director since December 2009, Chow has had a colorful career path from gang counseling to being the first Asian to become a director for Hands On Sacramento, a volunteer-matching agency with 207 chapters across the nation and 11 international chapters.
Chow sat down with us to talk about everything from her role as AAJA Executive Director to her passion for food.
Could you tell us a little bit about this convention and your role as the executive director?
The staff has been working a lot with the programming committee to really plan an exciting convention – where members not only can convene and connect, but also really build some new skills and get some great training. We have some great partnerships with the Online Newspaper Association and also many others. We have more programming than ever for our students.
Could you tell us how you came into this role and some of the jobs you had before which has lead to this career?
I have an unusual background – I started off in non-profit. I’ve been a gang counselor with Southeast Asian students, worked with California Optometric Association, and then I got to a point in my life where I decided that I needed to make my age an income. And so I went to the Sacramento Bee. I was a community relations representative and later became a public affairs representative, integrating our news into the different communities and managing their charitable contribution program. So I had an integral part in making sure that we were responsible and good corporate citizens in the news and information business.
As more Asian Americans are getting into journalism and broadcasting, do you find that the goals for AAJA might change or does it affect the goals of AAJA?
I think that our core mission will always stay the same. But I think like any nonprofit, any association, any business, you must evolve with the time. We are evolving. I have said to many of the board and membership, often times during change it’s very scary and I said, “Let’s not wait for the field of journalism to define us and tell us where our place is. Let us be the ones to be the leader and define where our place will be.” And I think that’s exciting.
What do you find most rewarding as director?
I’ve often said that the greatest legacy that I can leave in my life is the work that I do. I’ve met people who have come up to me, with tears in their eyes, telling me how much AAJA has changed their life and how AAJA invested in them to really encourage them to go into this field. That’s why I get up everyday and I’m excited for a new day, because it’s the members, it’s the energy, and I hope that we keep pushing that energy forward.
I can see that you have been doing some counseling, because I’m thinking: “Man! You could write a whole book, and I would read that!” Have you ever considered authoring a book?
I have – it’s funny that you ask because, civic engagement, as I said, has always been a part of my life. I’ve worked with a lot of youth and I think it’s really exciting for the field of service now because so many more youth and young people are really understanding their place and how one person can be changed. I’d love to write something that really helps a young person be inspired to do more.
Is there anything you’d like to say on behalf of AAJA for those coming out to the convention or even students who are here?
I’m accessible and I’ve adjusted my hours for the folks on the East Coast. I work from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., and I always welcome a call. Come and visit the office because I really do want to get to know the members. There was a lot of transition last year, but we are headed for better times. I am here to stay as long as this association wants me to be here.