Knowledge, technology & culture come together.

It’s not often that Northland Pioneer College has a professor born and raised in China, but Wei Ma has been able to combine his Chinese roots and his love of technology to bring a unique opportunity to NPC students.

As Ma grew up in China and started to pursue a career, he worked to become a producer in the television industry. Working for a Chinese television company gave him hands-on experience with various technologies and taught him how communicative technology can enhance a message. “When I was a television producer, one of my favorite parts of the job was doing a segment where we highlighted regular people and discovered the interesting stories about their lives. I loved the way we used television to communicate every-day stories and information,” said Ma.

While he enjoyed the television industry, there was always a desire to fulfill his childhood dream of teaching. “I always wanted to be an educator, but in China, educators are not very well paid, and for that reason, my parents (being educators themselves), did not want me to follow in that same profession,” said Ma. “But deep inside, I knew that education was an important career because I was able to see how education can change lives.”

When Ma was awarded a place in the U.S.-China sister city program from Ball State University (BSU) in Muncie, Indiana, he knew it was an opportunity to take his career in a different direction and combine his love of technology with his desire to teach. So Ma moved to the United States and went on to receive his doctorate in educational studies with an emphasis in educational technology after graduating with a master’s degree in telecommunications from BSU.

Now a full-time faculty member at NPC, Ma strives to teach instructors and students the importance of quality communication using today’s technology. Ma has played an integral part in refining NPC’s online education system and has helped other instructors become familiar with the technology that students are readily using. “There’s a digital disconnect out there and the more we can close that gap, the better education can become,” said Ma.

Ma also strives to close the knowledge gap about Chinese culture. Through NPC’s Kids College he has had the opportunity to be a “cultural liaison” and help others understand China and experience Chinese culture through hands-on learning. “I started a Chinese class through Kids College because I really wanted to provide an opportunity for kids in this area to get some exposure to Chinese culture and language. I try to make it a fun, educational workshop by including various topics such as traditions, language, calligraphy, kung fu and food … I am very pleased that I have the opportunity to share my cultural experience and serve as a liaison who brings two cultures closer.”

Ma currently resides with his family in Show Low and is excited to help NPC evolve with the ever-changing landscape in education. “I believe that, ‘technological change is not additive, it’s ecological,’ and that’s what we’re trying to do at NPC. When we meet students’ technological needs, it’s not just to add tablets or the latest gadgets, but to bring change to the whole ecosystem so that technology delivers students real help and a better learning experience.”

– Michael Nilsson