CAPAL Intern Spotlight William Yuen Yee ’21


William Yuen Yee is a rising senior at Columbia University studying Political Science and East Asian Languages and Cultures. This summer, he will intern for the U.S. Department of State at the U.S. Consulate in Wuhan, China.

What are your main responsibilities at your position? What are some of your big projects? 

My main responsibilities include researching economic and political issues relevant to the U.S.-China relationship in central China. I also represent the U.S. Consulate on a wide range of public diplomacy outreach initiatives such as speaking with Chinese students in Mandarin about U.S. culture and its education system. Some of my primary projects include analyzing trade opportunities for American businesses seeking to export goods in central China. In addition, I am tracking shifts in the reporting by Chinese media about COVID-19 for a diplomatic report on the overall local media landscape in central China. 

How does this internship/scholarship fit with your professional and career goals?

This internship aligns with my future aspirations to work in international trade law and diplomacy. Upon graduation, I plan to attend law school and later serve at the U.S. Department of State, contributing to the complex trade agreements that form the bedrock of the Sino-American economic relationship. As an intern for the U.S. Consulate in Wuhan, I look forward to utilizing my Mandarin Chinese in a professional context, developing skills like diplomatic writing, and gaining valuable insight into and the federal policymaking process. 


What do you hope to achieve this summer as a part of CAPAL’s 2021 cohort?

As part of CAPAL’s 2021 cohort, I look forward to expanding my knowledge of the diversity of the Asian American experience and serving through my Community Action Project. In my project, I will engage with and encourage young Native Hawaiians to serve in health careers. Through in-depth discussions about diversity and community impact with CAPAL, I hope to learn more about my own identity as an Asian American and how I can best serve the communities around me. 

What does public service mean to you?

My definition of public service entwines with servant leadership, a philosophy in which the foremost goal of the leader is to serve. I witnessed this form of public service firsthand as a prior intern for federal lawmakers—whether it was U.S. Senator Gillibrand pushing for a bill to alleviate crippling student loan debt or U.S. Congressman Espaillat organizing community leaders to combat the devastating effects of COVID-19 on neighborhoods in the Bronx. Public service ultimately involves striving to give voice to the voiceless and empowering those without the power to share their own. 

Did you pick up any new hobbies during quarantine, and if so, what are they?

Yes! Morning runs and journal writing in the evenings. 

What’s your favorite book?

Cathy Park Hong’s Minor Feelings, which eloquently captures the nuances and challenges of the Asian-American experience, particularly the pervasive sentiment of self-doubt. 

If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?


What is one country/place you hope to travel to one day? 

Brunei. It has beautifully ornate mosques, royal palaces, and stunningly lush hiking trails.  

What’s one interesting/surprising fact that a lot of people may not know about you? 

In my free time, I work as a Hollywood background actor and have previously been on shows like Fresh Off the Boat, Henry Danger, and True Detective. 

Meet all of our 2021 CAPAL Scholars & Interns here.