Reaching Out to Students
Shirley Fan-Chan '94
It wasn't until she returned to Lasell for her 20th Reunion in 2014 that Shirley Fan-Chan appreciated how transformed the campus-and the College-had become since her 1994 graduation. And with that realization came a commitment to "give back and help make the Lasell experience as rich for today's students as it was for me."
A Hong Kong native, Fan-Chan was an international student as a Lasell undergraduate, a self-described "shy young woman brought up to believe my purpose in life was limited." She credits Lasell's small class size and supportive learning environment with enabling her "to find my voice and value myself." And now, two decades later, that once-reluctant Asian immigrant is a committed advocate for social change, a Bedford, MA-based wife and mother of three and a new Lasell Overseer.
"My undergraduate internship at Lasell prepared me well for my first job in the nonprofit social service sector at a domestic violence agency," she tells Leaves. After earning a BA in Human Services, cum laude, from the College, Fan-Chan went on to get an MA in Public Affairs from the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston, as well as a certificate in Paralegal Studies from Northeastern.
And she is on the advisory council of the Commonwealth Compact, an organization that promotes diversity of leadership in Massachusetts.
Fan-Chan has extensive advocacy and leadership experience around domestic violence, immigrant, women's and children's issues. She is director of the UMass Boston Office of Urban and Off-Campus Support Services (aka U-ACCESS), where she helped create the statewide Massachusetts Homeless Post-Secondary Students Network. "The stigma associated with homelessness causes many students to hide their circumstances from their peers," she says. "Some resist financial aid out of pride, while others simply do not qualify because they are undocumented, lack a co-signer or have bad credit. We're there to help."
In that spirit, and to honor "the faculty and staff at Lasell who supported me unconditionally me when I needed it most," Fan-Chan recently established a Student Emergency Fund at Lasell to provide limited financial assistance to students who encounter unanticipated emergencies. Examples of such emergencies, she explains, would be a change in circumstance due to a natural disaster, medical need, loss of employment or change in domestic living situation.
"I hope both my life experience and professional path can help Lasell students realize that no matter how hard their journey," Fan-Chan says, "once they reach out to people who are willing to support them, they will be able to make it. Just as I was."