“I WANT TO DO WHAT I SO ADMIRED IN DR. LECROY: COACH AND MENTOR STUDENTS.”
– NANCY J. HONG
Nancy J. Hong
Former LeCroy Scholar, Brookhaven College
Executive Director, Innovation Greenhouse, University of North Texas
As a professional mentor herself, Nancy J. Hong is quick to note that she learned from the very best — former DCCCD chancellor R. Jan LeCroy. A refugee born in Cambodia to Chinese parents during the Vietnam war, she had come to the U.S. at age 16.
At 26, she followed two siblings to Dallas and enrolled at Brookhaven College, taking ESL classes during her first semester. Selected as one of the inaugural LeCroy scholars in 1989, she began a journey that has led to her current position as executive director of the University of NorthTexas’ Innovation Greenhouse, an organization that helps students grow their ideas.
Mentoring Paid Forward
“The LeCroy scholarship validated that there were good people out there willing to help me as a refugee, which hadn’t been my life experience so far,” she says. “It made me want to be able to give back to the community.”
After earning an associate degree from Brookhaven, Nancy transferred to Southern Methodist University to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration. “When I graduated, I knew that I wanted to make an impact in the community,” she says, “but I had no idea how.”
She worked in human resources and technical support at SMU for six years, then became the first technology director of the new Women’s Museum in Fair Park. “I had finally found a place where I could help empower women and young girls,” she says.
Finding Her True Passion
She took a year off, volunteered, got certified in Microsoft, MCSE and started her own company, The Diva Geek, providing technical support for women-owned small businesses. After working in tech support at the University of Texas at Dallas for several years, she became assistant director of its Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “I was mentored by another best teacher in the field, Dr. Joseph Picken,” she says. “That’s where I blossomed, where I found the real passion I didn’t know I had. I was finally doing what I had so admired about Dr. LeCroy: coaching and mentoring students.”
After ten years at UTD, she was hired by UNT to serve as the first executive director of its Innovation Greenhouse, which opened in January of 2013 to help students grow their entrepreneurial ideas into reality. “I get to be a coach and a cheerleader to encourage students to do what they want to do,” she says.
And she’s very sure of where her passion for mentoring first ignited. “The founders of the LeCroy scholarship – Dr. Jan LeCroy and Mike Myers – were my role models,” she says. “That scholarship opened so many doors for me; I can’t tell you how many.
“My goal is to help create 100,000 jobs,” she says. “No, I don’t have a company, but I can help young people start their own companies. That’s how I can contribute and give back to the community.”