Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Meet a Roadrunner: Ying Li ’16 is passionate about teaching Chinese to UTSA students

Meet a Roadrunner: Ying Li ’16 is passionate about teaching Chinese to UTSA students

Ying Li came to UTSA to earn a Ph.D. and now teaches Chinese to UTSA students.

(Sept. 20, 2017) -- Meet Ying Li ’16. This UTSA graduate and professor is giving students a better understanding of the Chinese language and culture.

Born and raised in north China, Li was surrounded by educators. Both of her grandparents were Chinese language and literature teachers. Her dream was to come to America to further learn about the methodology and theories of foreign language education.

While earning her master’s degree in Beijing, she learned about the many opportunities in the U.S. and decided to study at UTSA’s Bicultural-Bilingual Studies department.   

“The program at UTSA is unique,” Li said. “I was interested in learning about the interplay between language and culture. The program at UTSA focused on both.”  

Li moved to San Antonio in 2011 so she could pursue her Ph.D. in Culture, Literacy and Language at UTSA.

“I learned a lot from UTSA professors and my cohort,” Li said. “I had the chance to learn so many teaching theories and practices – in second language acquisition and bilingual education.”

One year before earning her degree from UTSA, Li was hired as a faculty member, teaching Chinese to fellow Roadrunners.

“At UTSA, I’m able to incorporate western language pedagogy which I wouldn’t be able to do in a traditional Chinese classroom in China. I can make learning fun and meaningful for my students,” Li said.  

One of the ways Li engages students in learning is through a partnership between her UTSA students and students in China who are learning English. Li and a colleague, who teaches college students in China, have developed a project where the UTSA students communicate and write with the students in China through WeChat, one of the most popular messaging apps in China.

“Through this platform, my UTSA students can actually talk and become friends with Chinese students in China,” Li said. “Both classes are practicing language proficiency.”

She says it feels good to see her teaching style pay off.  

“When my students tell me, ‘I got it. I can do it!’ I have validation that my efforts to efficiently teach them work. It’s a fantastic feeling.”

Research is also one of Li’s passions. Currently, she and her students are studying how native Spanish speakers learn Chinese differently than native English speakers. They’re also studying which methodology is best to teach Chinese to the Spanish-speaking students. In the past, she has investigated this research with Cantonese-speaking students.

She also conducts research on Chinese culture and has explored how to integrate Chinese culture in foreign language education to enhance students’ cross-cultural communication competency.

When she’s not teaching or doing research, Li’s practicing calligraphy. She established the UTSA Chinese Calligraphy Workshop and is teaching UTSA students the art of the Chinese calligraphy. She also has held Chinese calligraphy and cultural workshops at San Antonio Public Libraries.

Additionally, Li serves as a faculty advisor for three UTSA student organizations: The Chinese Language and Culture Club, Vietnamese Student Association and Alpha Sigma Rho Sorority.

This semester, she is teaching a new course: Colloquium in East Asian Culture.

“Asian cultures are interrelated. They have their similarities, but also their differences. It’s beneficial to learn from various Asian cultural perspectives and how we can communicate in the globalization era,” Li said. “My goal is to bridge the different cultures together and educate the community.”

It’s a community Li now calls her home.

“In America, San Antonio is my hometown. It’s a great city to study, teach and raise a family here,” she said. “At UTSA, I get so much support from the professors, colleagues and even the students. I’m grateful to have earned a degree and work at such a diverse university. UTSA gave me a lot of opportunities to excel.”

- Courtney Clevenger

Do you know a Roadrunner who is achieving great things? Email us at so that we may consider your suggestion for our next installment of Meet a Roadrunner.

Connect with UTSA online at Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and LinkedIn.

UTSA Today is produced by University Communications and Marketing, the official news source of The University of Texas at San Antonio. Send your feedback to Keep up-to-date on UTSA news by visiting UTSA Today. Connect with UTSA online at Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram.


UTSA's Mission

The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.

UTSA's Vision

To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.

UTSA's Core Values

We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.