Five Questions With Richard Lui, NBC and MSNBC News Anchor &

Campaign Ambassador for “We’re the Changing Face of America”

Richard Lui
Richard Lui
Facebook: @richklui
Twitter: @RichardLui 

1. Can you tell us where you went to college and what you studied?

I got my AA at City College of San Francisco, my BA at UC Berkeley, and my MBA at Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.  At Berkeley I studied rhetoric, what some call a “BA in BS.”  Whatever you call it, I picked rhetoric because it was a mix of practice and theory in the study of argumentation.  I thought the training would not only help me in everyday interactions, since I was a bit shy in high school, but also in my then plans to attend law school.


2. What is the best lesson you learned while in college?

I learned several important lessons in college.  First, study what you want, but take note of the practical things that can help you achieve future plans.  Second, try things, make mistakes, readjust, and try again.  I changed majors three times at Berkeley.  I tried three different jobs with three different career paths each summer as well.  Finally, go to college when you’re ready.  I worked for four years at Mrs. Fields® cookies after high school.  Then, at age 21, I returned to education. If corralled to one-size-fits-all, we often make the wrong choice.

3. Was there a time when you stumbled in college and were able to recover? How did you overcome the difficulty?

To satisfy my school foreign language requirements I chose Mandarin.  I figured, I’m of Chinese descent; I should try to learn how to speak the language.  My brain didn’t cooperate.  My experience:  Take Chinese 1, fail, take Chinese 1 again, pass, take Chinese 2, fail, take Chinese 2 again, pass.  That was high school.  At Berkeley it was the same fail-pass cycle.  So after years of staying up late with flashcards and character exercises while roommates slept soundly, I let it go.  I chose my backup, Spanish, instead because of its practical use in California.  I moved to Spain to immerse myself, had flashcards for vocabulary, and focused on building Spanish cultural and language skills simultaneously.  Spain changed my life, but so did learning what I couldn’t do well–languages.  To me, trying means trying several times, not trying once and giving up.


4. What inspires you to make a change in your community?

I have an obligation to my community.  Learning that importance is certainly a work in progress.  My volunteer work started when I was 12 at the YMCA as a counselor and volunteer for events benefiting youth programs.  This work continued into my 20′s.  Later, Ross School of Business gave me a philosophy to ground my work.  Our first day on campus the dean gathered the entire class.  He said one thing emphatically:  “You have an obligation now.”  He said we were lucky to get an MBA at Ross, and it was because of our respective communities.  Ten years into my latest career as a journalist, I’ve evolved the way I take on that business school challenge.  Speaking and hosting at dozens of events a year, I have been able to learn more about the causes I care about while bringing attention to them in ways I couldn’t before.  To live in ways outside of the “selfie” mentality has been driven by my parents.  One was a schoolteacher, the other a social worker and reverend.  Their choice to serve is an example I cannot forget.


5. How can students or community members get involved to make a difference in their community?

Join groups at your school that reach out to the community and are not only interest clubs.  At Michigan for instance they have a Community Consulting group where business students can use their training to help non-profits while practicing what they learn in class.  You can also look for a community organization that works in the space you care about and volunteer five or 10 hours a week.  One example is human trafficking.  When I’m speaking on the subject, some will be driven to act but aren’t sure of the best way.  The best way is to find the local anti-human trafficking non-profit group.  They know the space and can help you learn it.  With that knowledge, when you’re ready you can branch out to more specialized volunteer work for the cause you care about.  And don’t worry about the position you have; [worry] more about what the organization is doing.  Get in there.  Roll up your sleeves and learn.


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About the “Five Questions With…” Blog Series
“Five Questions With…” is a blog seriespresented by the “We’re the Changing Face of America” campaignfeaturing the stories of students, public officials, business professionals, entertainers, and other notable Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) leaders.  These individuals are sharing their experiences in higher education to help inspire today’s generation of AAPI students to reach for success.


About the “We’re the Changing Face of America” Campaign
The “We’re the Changing Face of America” campaign is a national public awareness effort dedicated to increasing access and completion among Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students, the fastest-growing student population in U.S. colleges and universities.  Launched in March 2013 by the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF) and the National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education (CARE)—the leading AAPI student- and research-focused organizations, respectively—the campaign works through strategic partnerships to help ensure that access and success challenges experienced by the AAPI student population do not continue. The campaign supports the Partnership for Equity in Education through Research project, which works to improve educational outcomes for AAPI students.


What five questions would you ask AAPI leaders about their college experience? Let us know in the comments section below or send an email to


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