Even as a child, Echo Huang ‘95 knew that education was the key to a better life.

Her parents were both college-educated teachers, sent to work in China’s rural villages without running water or electricity. The family later moved to Shenzhen, a major city in southern China, where Huang earned an accounting diploma in lieu of attending high school. Shortly thereafter, she secured a coveted job with the Bank of China, earning more than her parents did as teachers. Despite her success, Huang dreamt of coming to the United States to further her education.

Just 20 years old and with only $800 to her name, Huang left her enviable bank job and set off for America. She started taking classes at the University of Idaho but soon moved across the country to attend Winona State University, where she was able to qualify for resident tuition. She graduated with honors just three years later and received her bachelor’s degree in accounting.

Upon launching a career in accounting, Huang quickly realized a passion and talent for financial planning. Over the course of 15 years, she started two successful investment advisory practices and helped a selective group of professionals and entrepreneurs create and implement personalized financial plans.

“My passion is to help people utilize their resources to maximize the return in their lives,” she said. “I think the best part is helping people improve their financial lives. When money is well managed, it can empower people.”

In 2015, Huang founded Echo Wealth Management, LLC. As president and founder, she works to provide holistic financial planning for successful professionals and entrepreneurs, but she is also simultaneously working to improve the landscape of gender inequity in the financial world.

“As a young immigrant, Asian, and woman, I am a ‘triple’ minority in the financial services industry,” Huang said. “Over the years as I have worked mostly with male bosses and peers, I have encountered the kind of sexism that has probably driven other women away from this field.”

Through her work and influence, Huang intends to change that.

“According to the American Association of University Women, at the current rate of change, the gender pay gap won’t close until year 2119,” she said. “And as a wealth manager owning my own company, I want to empower more women to manage money wisely and work together to fight for equity and fairness.”

Echo Huang and her colleague Tyler Lodahl

It all starts with education, said Huang. The gender pay gap can be closed sooner by encouraging more women to pursue college degrees in high-income—and traditionally male-dominated—fields like financial services, science and engineering, and then working to support them in those fields.

Providing opportunities for today’s students to succeed is of utmost priority, said Huang. She recalls how hard she had to work to support herself through college, spending long hours at part-time campus jobs trying to make ends meet. She secured several scholarships, but the financial burden was still overwhelming because, as an international student, she wasn’t eligible to receive need-based financial aid or apply for student loans. Reflecting back on her own struggles, Huang decided several years ago to start a scholarship at WSU aimed at supporting international students in the College of Business.

“I have realized my American dreams,” said Huang, who currently resides in Plymouth, Minn., with her husband, Daniel Brown, and daughter, Nina. “I want to support the next generation of students pursuing their American dream.”

“Besides,” she added, “it is an honor to give a scholarship. It kind of means that I made it in America.”

Today, she is more confident than ever about the decisions that brought her to this point in her life, including the decision to attend Winona State.

“It’s the right college for a reasonable price, which is why it has been ranked among America’s 100 Best College Buys,” said Huang. “I am so appreciative of my education at Winona State University.”