Catching up with…Weiwei Zhang

Publication Date

At 5 a.m., when most of campus is asleep, Weiwei Zhang and a crew of about 60 are on a mission, hustling between academic buildings and residence halls. As supervisor of Housekeeping, Zhang needs to make sure the living and learning spaces are clean, sanitary and presentable when folks start arriving later in the morning.

Being a cleaner on campus can be a thankless job and one easily taken for granted by those who leave the messes behind.

Weiwei Zhang during a hike in the Plotter Kill Preserve in Rotterdam, N.Y. in 2019.

Weiwei Zhang during a hike in the Plotter Kill Preserve in Rotterdam, N.Y. in 2019.

A spiritual person, Zhang does not complain.

“I love the group of people I work with,” she said. “We are very supportive of each other in getting the job done. We work hard. We are like family.”

Zhang spent the first 21 years of her life in Liaoning, a northeastern Chinese province bordering North Korea and the Yellow Sea. In 2007, newly married to an American citizen, she left her homeland and her family to settle in upstate New York.

After a few years at home raising her children, Zhang joined Union in 2010, working her way up the ranks in Facilities.

A member of the Union Staff Council, she “looks forward to getting to know others and hearing from the community.”

She loves spending time with her three teenagers (two sons, ages 16 and 15, and a daughter, 14).

A fitness guru, she seeks balance from yoga and hikes. She also enjoys dancing.

Catching up with...

Each week a faculty or staff member is profiled. Answering a series of short questions, the profiles are intended to be light, informative and conversational.

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“I look for gratitude and peace,” said Zhang, whose Facebook tagline is “Keep Smiling.”

Next summer, she plans to return to China to visit her parents and sister. She has not seen them since 2017. The pandemic also complicated travel.

“It’s very hard having them so far away,” she said. “I am really looking forward to that trip.”

FIRST APP YOU LOOK AT IN THE MORNING: I like to start my day with a short meditation or affirmation, so YouTube is my usual go-to app in the morning.

GO-TO BREAKFAST: As our work starts at 5 in the morning, I like a light and simple breakfast--banana with peanut butter.

WHAT’S THE LAST GREAT BOOK YOU READ? The book I constantly refer to when I feel I am losing myself in the balancing of life is “The Yamas and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice” by Deborah Adele. She kindly and compassionately introduces and shares perspectives and practices of ethical living aligned with the eight-limbed yoga path. It's applicable to our times, and invites a timelessness to the Yamas and the Niyamas. This can be lived daily, as we are.

BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED: If not now, when; if not me, who? I first heard about this quote/advice from my yoga mentor, Rocky Parisi, during one of her heart-reaching classes. It awakened me from within: What is my true power and what's been holding me back? I hold the absolute power to the path I choose.

FAVORITE PLACE TO VISIT: Chasing the waterfalls is always my favorite getaway from my busy life. Standing in front of a waterfall, one can completely be mesmerized by the majestic cascade of water tumbling down. In the moment of awe of nature's masterpiece, a symphony of water and wind, and a refreshing sensation of the mist, I found myself contemplating the essence of being, the “here and now.” It's my way of nurturing a sense of harmony and well-being, a brief halt from the anxieties of work and the complexities of life. One of my favorite waterfalls is in Watkins Glen, N.Y.

WHAT ARE YOU WATCHING RIGHT NOW?: I enjoy movie nights with my children, and usually we fancy action-filled and suspenseful movies. I usually pass out half way through and don't know the endings to most of what we watched.

ONE SKILL YOU WISH YOU HAD: Yoga therapist. I am very passionate about yoga, and aiming to use it to help others to relieve their physical and/or mental suffering.

THREE DINNER PARTY GUESTS (living or deceased): I would love to have my grandma, who passed away while I was pregnant with my third child. I am looking forward to my dinner time with my parents and my sister.

FIRST CONCERT: Phish. It was on Staten Island sometime between 2011 and 2013. It was packed. The energy was pretty high. It is definitely a different experience.

LITTLE KNOWN FACT ABOUT YOU: I enjoy a simple lifestyle and am a determined yoga lover. I live to absorb myself in nature and influence others through teaching.