You could say that Jiting Deng had a baptism by fire of sorts into University life — or more appropriately a baptism by football.
One of her first experiences outside of the classroom at Temple was an Owls football game at Lincoln Financial Field. And she certainly didn’t shy away from raising a giant foam finger or a cherry and white pom pom to cheer on her adopted team to victory.
“It was my first experience with American football. I figured, ‘Why not?’ — I always try to do things that are different, that are new to me,” said Deng, 25, originally from Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia in China. “I didn’t know the rules and I wasn’t exactly sure how the game worked, but it was pretty exciting. I sang along to the Temple Fight Song and got the Temple T painted on my face. It’s a great way for me to learn from these activities and from the people experiencing them with me.”
From the outset, Deng, who will graduate this month with a master’s degree in Community and Regional Planning, embraced the Temple experience just as much as Temple has embraced her.
“I’ve been able to experience really everything that Temple has to offer; there’s always something to do. I live in Philadelphia near Main Campus — since I grew up in a city that was fairly large, the transition was pretty easy for me and if there were things I wasn’t used to or didn’t know about, I adapted to them,” she said. “I discovered the Ambler Campus, with its beautiful scenery and welcoming faculty and staff, and felt there were a lot of choices here as far as ways that I could make an impact as an individual.”
Deng said Dr. Deborah Howe, chair of the Department of Community and Regional Planning, and Dr. Wanda Lewis-Campbell, Assistant Dean for Student Life at Temple Ambler, formed the basis of a continually expansive support system that allowed her to focus on her studies while also becoming fully immersed in campus life.
It was reading about Dr. Howe and Temple’s planning program that brought Deng to the states in the first place. After having completed an undergraduate degree in Landscape Architecture at Inner Mongolia Agricultural University, she was seeking a new challenge in new surroundings.
“With landscape architecture, my first goal was to make the surroundings where I lived more beautiful; I wanted to make life easier and more sustainable for people in the community,” she said. “With community and regional planning, the goals are similar but it’s on a different scale.”
Planning, Deng said, “looks at the bigger picture.”
“Sometimes you can have a beautiful design, but there has to be more to it to be successful. Maybe the design works for the location, but there’s no public transportation for anyone to get there and enjoy it — that’s something you’d also have to address to make your original idea viable,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed working with my professors, who have many years of experience in the field. Next, I’d like to stay in the United States for a few years to gain practical work experience — I want to see what practitioners are doing, how I can use that knowledge and put it to good use.”
Outside of the classroom, Deng has become a staple at Ambler Campus events and organizations in addition to becoming involved in international student organizations at Main Campus.
A member of the Temple Planning Student Organization, the Chinese Student Scholars Association and one of the originators of Temple’s Aquaponics program, it was Deng’s efforts and support of the Ambler Campus Program Board that made it clearly evident just how dedicated to student life at Temple she had become. More than half of the few hundred Temple students that attended a special evening cruise and semi-formal on the Spirit of Philadelphia this past fall were there thanks to Deng.
“I have made a lot of friends and a lot of connections while I’ve been at Temple. There are a lot more people just like me who want to get involved, who want to participate in these activities,” she said of her recruiting success. “I talked to people directly, I used social media. We were able to get a bus from Ambler and a bus from Main to take all of the students interested in attending to the ship and everyone enjoyed the experience.”
Deng’s willingness to lead by example culminated in a Student Leader of the Year Award at the Ambler Campus Student Leadership Banquet.
“I don’t know why someone wouldn’t get involved while they are at Temple. You can get so much out of these activities and get to know a lot of terrific people — I’ve gotten something out of every experience,” she said. “I’ve loved everything I’ve been a part of and all of the classes I’ve taken. I’d like to take more, but I have all of the credits I need to graduate!”