My ECAASU registration ID was 360. I think this accurately describes my experience at the conference this weekend: a truly 360 degree and eye-opening experience. I met student activists and connected with notable Asian-American leaders that have helped pave way for Asian-American students that aspire to make a difference in the realm of politics, business, the arts, etc. (areas where we are underrepresented). The weekend provided a unique opportunity for attendees to collaborate on developing innovative ways to engage interest for Asian-American issues at our respective universities and communities.
One of the most memorable moments of my trip included speaking with the students at Wellesley College and sharing in their excitement over the recent approval of an Asian-American studies minor. It was a major milestone given that it took 20 years of advocating on behalf of students, community leaders, and certain faculty members. That’s two whole decades or the equivalent of my entire life at this point! And so this made me wonder…..why the delay and why not at more universities? I have several explanations:
1) We don’t have enough Asian-American leaders at top levels that can champion for us. Unless we are at the table providing input on key decisions, our efforts in effectively addressing Asian-American issues will be more difficult. I’m not however, saying that grass-root efforts are futile. All I’m asking is where is our MLK equivalent?
2) There is not enough demand. With this in mind, fellow students, this is a call to action! Be the change that you want to see. How did you think Wellesley College was able to finally get their approval? The students participated in sit-ins, campaigned, and were relentless in pushing for change.
3) The Asian culture of passivity, respect, and indirectness is doing more harm than good. Look at how the public views Asian-Americans: as the mute “model minority.” This suggests that we don’t need to change and that we have lived up to others’ expectations, not our own. This is problematic because it stifles change and reinforces stereotypes. I think the new generation of Asian-Americans are fierce, ambitious, and tired of being ignored. Also, we’re tired of being what others expect us to be.
No one is going to champion for us if we don’t believe in our own work and selves. ECAASU reminded me of the importance for Asian-American figures to be active community leaders. It’s important for us to see and be seen and that really starts with the individual.
4) We don’t have all of our ducks in line. Many groups of Asians fall under the umbrella of Asian-American: Chinese, Korean, Pilipino, Vietnamese, etc. The reality is that we’re very different despite all being Asian. Often times, these inter-cultural group differences can be more of a barrier to collaboration and hence advancement of the Asian community as a whole. With this in mind, I believe this presents new opportunities for different types of Asians to work together better.
In closing, I came across a touching quote while reading A-List, a cutting edge publication that brings mainstream attention to Asian-American leadership and excellence: “Your life’s work begins where your great joy meets the world’s great hunger.” – Kate Bronstein.
I believe I’ve found my great joy this weekend at ECAASU.
By: Judy Tat
Lately, discussion topics in my classes have centered on the rise of China and its implications for the world order. As an Asian American having only travelled to China once, I realized just how naïve I am about this massive country of 1.3 BILLION inhabitants. China is in my DNA; my descendants hail from Guangzhou and yet having grown up in the U.S., my understanding of China has always been from a western perspective. So the overarching question I struggle with is…How Chinese am I on the one hand, and how Chinese American am I on the other? Is it wrong to feel a closer association with one over the other? And what I begin to uncover is that I value different aspects in both cultures and try to incorporate the best of both into my life.
In the spirit of celebrating my roots, I’ll be attending the annual East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECASSU) conference this weekend! Wow, that was a mouthful. Held at Columbia University, it’s expected to draw a large and diverse crowd, which will make for a memorable experience. Stay tuned for a follow-up!
Behind every great entrepreneur stands a great team. Behind every great company stands an incredible workforce. Employees are the unsung heroes. I really believe that.
Wow. It’s finally over. Well almost. Stony Point is officially closed but now comes the fun part: boxing merchandise and tearing down fixtures. Kudos to all the volunteers that will be dedicating their Saturday helping us. We are truly thankful.
This brings me to several key lessons that running my first franchise has taught me:
1) “Plans don’t work.” – Talk is cheap. What really matters is you ability to carry through with your promises. You can spend all the time planning, but more often than not, things always go wrong. A successful person is one that can improvise and think quickly on their feet.
2) “It’s not just about money. “ – My goal as an entrepreneur is to defy conventional wisdom and to create meaning in life. For instance, who says we need to buy a new home when we can share one? What about a grocery store without shopping carts or check-out lines?
Strive to create true value for customers by transforming the way they think, feel, and behave aka their lifestyle. Strive to create a unique experience and the money will follow.
3) “Perfection is impossible.” – No matter how many hours you put into something, no matter how many times you add, subtract, adjust something, there will always be room for improvement. Do not strive for perfection because you will only end up disappointed in the end. Instead, strive for incremental improvement in all that you do.
4) “You succeed, we succeed.” – When our employees are having a bad day, they don’t bring their full selves to work. Consequently, our customers don’t get the type of service they deserve. Thus, do all you can to make sure that your employees are successful. Your success certainly depends on their well-being.
-Contributed by Judy