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Dr. Yanjun Yan: An I Love WCU Story

Education. Connection. Heart.

Dr. Yanjun Yan


As an educational institution, Western Carolina University faculty utilize their vast resources of knowledge to nurture students, use their time to advance the curriculum offered to students, and work with an educational community to stem new ideas. Yanjun Yan is one of these individuals, but the lessons do not stop in the classroom.

When not spending time working, her focus falls upon family and sharing valuable time with them. The connection keeps her grounded, while she uses her time to see the areas of need for students. Yan advocates for better preparation and screening for students as they come into college, ensuring there is support if interests change, and keeping mental health support at the forefront. Yan has seen the impact stress plays on students not having time to do their schoolwork, as many students work to pay for school, and how scholarships relieve the financial and mental burdens.

When asked hypothetically about how she would donate $50, Yan noted she would “put it towards the students’ scholarship fund” because of the continuous and immediate needs they have. There was no hesitation on that thought. When asked how she would donate $5 million, Yan hesitated as her eyes lit up at the possibilities.

Yanjun Yan


In her journey through academia from her undergraduate experience in China, graduate work in Japan, doctorate in the US, and her Fulbright research on Bulgarian education trends, Yan witnesses the impact of education worldwide. Observing this led to her first philanthropic wish list item of “adding more faculty, so WCU can help more students.” As she works to help each student thrive as an individual, she sees how having a good faculty to student ratio helps them develop. Without spending all of this “dream big” gift in one spot, Yan expressed how funding scholarships for study abroad was important and takes an individual’s mind and magnifies their knowledge base on a global scale.

As a consummate educator, Yan was asked what she would say if asked, “Why should I give?” She replied, “I would show them results, not tell them why.” Experiencing the impact and outcome of how philanthropy provides noticeable results matches her teaching style of experiential, hands-on learning.” Yan added, “If they don’t know if the contributions would go to the place they intend it to, showing them and educating them” gives the knowledge one needs to bridge that gap.

By putting in what you have to contribute to others, whether it be your time, talent, or treasure, Yan reminds us to allow the heart to lead the way. Yan stated, “Money is a big thing, but the heart is more important.”



I Love WCU Month and the Shetland Society

A sepia toned photograph of a wagon wheel with white text stating "Shetland Society"


Recognizing WCU Faculty and Staff donors at all levels, the Shetland Society celebrates the employees who work hard for WCU and the University’s role to support our student body and the greater community.

You can join Dr. Yanjun Yan and other faculty and staff donors in the 2020-2021 Shetland Society by visiting

We hope you'll join us for the Faculty and Staff breakfast drive-through as a part of I Love WCU Month on Wednesday, February 24 from 8am – 10:30am in the Big Cat Lot.

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