An experience working in northern Wisconsin resulted in Sandy Liang realizing she wanted to be a family living educator in the state.
As an AmeriCorps VISTA member, she worked with the Center for Academic Service Learning, at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.
“My role was to bring university resources to the community,” Liang said. “I learned a lot. The skills I developed helped me see how things work in the real world.”
The program was one of several she applied to after graduating from Purdue University with a Master’s degree in child development and family studies.
Liang wanted to apply research to communities.
The AmeriCorps VISTA program was a good fit for her.
“I worked with the Healthier Douglas County Coalition. That experience really helped me learn how bringing different people from various sectors to the table works,” she said. “It’s like being a professional optimist. You have to see what’s already in place and access them. Every community has assets, whether it’s a person, group or a place.”
During that experience, Liang worked with someone who worked with UW-Extension and soon decided it was an area in which she would like to work.
“I just really liked what she did,” she said. “I wanted to be part of the Extension family.”
Liang noticed how those who work in the profession are valued and also have long careers in Extension.
“You always have endless learning opportunities and times and trends change. You have to stay abreast of the best research and best practices,” she said. “It’s important for a community to receive services found to be effective.”
Liang applied for family living educator positions in Wisconsin and was hired in Waupaca County’s UW-Extension office.
Her first day on the job was Nov. 15.
The Columbus, Ohio, native is a graduate of Denison University, in Grandville, Ohio.
“Steve Carell went there, so it’s a real school,” she said with a smile, referring to the actor who played Michael Scott on “The Office.”
Liang graduated from Denison University with a degree in psychology.
As an undergraduate there, she was part of a research experience at Western Kentucky University. Her project was about parenting satisfaction, and from there, her interest in the field blossomed.
“The following year, I applied for another undergraduate research project, at Michigan State. I was working on child abuse and neglect recidivism,” Liang said.
Her involvement in those projects helped her narrow down her direction in psychology to child development and family studies.
Liang said she was naturally drawn to those areas.
Prior to Liang being hired here, a visioning session took place. The session involved people from throughout the county to find out what they thought the communities in the county need from the family living educator position.
The three topics which emerged were health and food issues, parenting education and family financial planning, she said.
During the past few months, Liang met with those who were involved in that session to talk more in-depth about what they hope to see in the communities.
In addition, she has been focusing on various assessments, which have already been done, to see trends in the county and to fill in some of the gaps.
Outside of work, Liang enjoys running and likes to do half marathons. Access to local food and sustainability are other interests for her. She also just bought a ukuele and will be learning how to play it.