Staff member wins national awards for leadership, mentorship

Delia Cheung Hom, director of the Asian American Center, poses for portraits on Jan. 29, 2018. She recently won two national awards for her mentorship and leadership in student affairs. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Delia Cheung Hom does it for the students.

As director of Northeastern’s Asian American Center for the past 10 years, she’s developed award-winning programs, mentored countless young scholars, and tackled big issues like social identity.

“I want to be a resource and a role model,” she says.

Her work has not gone unnoticed.

Last month, Hom won two national awards for her outstanding contributions to the personal and professional lives of students and staff at Northeastern: the Dr. Daniello Balón Mentoring Award from the Asian Pacific American Network and the Outstanding Mid-Level Professional Award from the Asian Pacific Islander Knowledge Community.

“I feel humbled and very grateful that people I work with see the impact of what I’m trying to do,” says Hom.

Her accomplishments run deep, from developing the center’s peer mentoring program to leading an annual retreat aimed at exploring race and gender in the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American community.

Hom is also a mentor, lending an ear to students and staff alike. It’s not hyperbole to say that she’s helped people discover who they are both personally and professionally. As she explains, “It’s about being authentic and meaning it when you say, ‘I’d love to sit down with you and talk more about this.’”

Hom often provides guidance and support to students as they choose a major or navigate the job market. And she’s a champion for staff who want to carve out careers in student affairs, saying, “it’s important to me to reach out to younger professionals in the field.”

‘A fierce Asian American woman’

Kristine Din, the center’s senior assistant director, describes Hom as a resilient leader with a passion for advancing diversity and inclusion in higher education. She views her less as a supervisor and more as a mentor, role model, and family member.

“Delia is a really strong and fierce Asian American woman,” says Din, who nominated Hom for the Outstanding Mid-Level Professional Award. “I trust her and I’m able to be myself around her.”

Indeed, Hom encourages Din to be her “authentic self” in the workplace. As she explains, “she’s helped me understand and recognize that my voice is worthy.”

According to Din, Hom has that rare ability to empathize with students, to see who they truly are and what they need. One of those students is Julia Kim, SSH’19, who goes to Hom when she wants to “parse out and unspool complicated thoughts and ideas.”

Kim met Hom in 2015 when she applied to be a mentor in the AAC’s peer mentoring program and later sought her advice before launching a woman’s affinity group in 2016.

She describes Hom as a thoughtful listener with bountiful “wisdom regarding womanhood and intersectionality,” and says she’s turned the AAC into a “place a lot of Asian American students have grown to call their home.”

Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

The practitioner-scholar

Hom’s passion for working with students dates back to the late 1990s, when she was studying at Vassar College and serving as vice president of the school’s Asian Students’ Alliance.

Although she was only in her early 20s, it was clear to Hom that she’d already found her career calling: “So much of what I gained as a college student was due to experiences outside of the classroom,” she explains, “and I knew that I wanted to create similar opportunities for future generations of students.”

Today Hom is doing precisely what she set out to do nearly 20 years ago—but she isn’t resting on her laurels. Hom, EdD’15, earned her doctorate in education  from Northeastern in 2015, writing a thesis titled “Understanding Asian American Female College Students and Their Sense of Belonging.” And she’s harnessed the power of the practitioner-scholar, co-authoring a paper published in 2016 in the Journal of Critical Scholarship on Higher Education and Student Affairs.

“Earning my doctorate in education provided me with a different way of viewing my work,” says Hom. “It helped me generate new ideas and perspectives that I otherwise might not have had.”

Now Hom is busy planning for Asian American Heritage Week, which will be held in late February. The program, dubbed “Multifaceted,” will celebrate the myriad cultures and unique narratives within the Asian diaspora.

“I hope we’ve made inroads in helping students feel like they belong,” says Hom.