University of Southern California

USC Student Affairs and Campus Life

Mary Ho

Director, Asian Pacific American Student Services (APASS)

By Marla Schevker

Mary HoPhoto by Nathan CarterMary Ho

As the new director of APASS, Mary Ho has set priorities for herself: getting to know APASS, the USC community and the area surrounding USC and figuring out how they can all work together.

“It’s really building a team here and getting to know how we can support the current, well-established programs and do new initiatives that will really serve our student population well,” she said.

Ho moved back to Southern California from the Bay Area where she spent 10 years working in diversity education, multicultural learning, leadership and identity development.

She did her undergraduate work at University of California, Irvine (UCI), where she majored in political science. Her plans to go to law school changed after she was hired in the UCI Dean of Students Office to work as an administrative assistant focusing on orientation and leadership.

Ho’s work in student affairs inspired her to attend New York University (NYU) to get her master’s degree in higher education and administration. At NYU, she worked at Oasis, the office for Asian American, African American and Latino student services.

She spent her first year at NYU living in New York’s Chinatown.

“I was immersed in the ethnic enclave of Chinatown and what it means to be an Asian American in Chinatown,” she said. “It gave me a glimpse to what it meant to live in a diverse culture. In California, we think we do, but we really don’t because it’s very segregated, for the most part, by class and race. In New York, all these identities have to cross paths in some way because of public transportation and how New York is structured.”

Her second year, she was working as a resident director for first- and second-year students when the 9/11 attacks occurred.

“It was a difficult time during that fall semester – not only living in New York City but also being a resident director and working in the Oasis office,” she said, “but it really did challenge me to understand why I did the work that I did.”

After completing her master’s degree at NYU, Ho worked in orientation, leadership and multicultural programming at Saint Mary’s College in the Bay area. After one year, she was asked to be the founding director of the Delphine Intercultural Center. She then worked in diversity education at Santa Clara University, where she ultimately served as the director for the Office for Multicultural Learning and managed the Rainbow Resource Center.

Ho is excited to begin her next chapter at USC.

“I found that when I did the work around diversity education, sometimes there was a missing link where I knew I could go a bit deeper,” she said. “Coming to APASS is my opportunity to do that, to approach it with the same philosophy but with more focus.”