The Asian American Association held their fifth annual UnificAsian event Sunday, beginning an entire week of festivities known as Fall Welcome Week. The event was meant to welcome new Asian American students to MU, as well as help them in their transition to college life.
The program, themed “The Next Chapter,” featured a keynote speaker, icebreaker games, information and resources as well as a dance performance by AAA members. AAA President Christyona Pham and External Vice President Avy Kea coordinated this year’s event.
“Asian Americans comprise such a small percentage at Mizzou that you don’t really hear about resources for us as a group,” Pham said. “At UnificAsian, freshmen can learn about these resources and meet people with their same cultural or ethnic background. We get the bulk of our AAA members from this event.”
Freshman Angie Pi said UnificAsian offered her the chance to befriend other Asian students, an opportunity she didn’t experience in her hometown.
“My mom heard about (UnificAsian) at Summer Welcome and told me about it,” Pi said. “There weren’t a lot of Asians where we were from, and I thought it would be cool to meet people who have something in common with me.”
Freshman Victoria Yu said the event inspired her to join AAA and become an active member.
“It definitely helps with the transition,” Yu said. “Being in a group where you feel you belong is bonding and unifying. I really like getting involved, being open-minded and doing a lot of things around campus. I would love to come back as an upperclassman to help out freshmen and be a leader.”
A new feature of this year’s event included a lunch mixer with the Hispanic American Leadership Organization. AAA also coordinates with umbrella groups, such as Alpha Phi Gamma, the Asian American Student Journalists Association and various Asian interest groups on campus, Kea said.
“I’m really excited this year to meet new people,” Kea said. “Being a part of AAA executive board, you have a chance to be welcoming to new students through socials and other events.”
The program’s keynote speaker was Annie Guo, an MU alumna and co-founder of UnificAsian. She spoke on the importance of staying true to one’s cultural identity, despite being the minority.
“I was often embarrassed when my parents would order my friends to take off their shoes when they came to my house,” Guo said. “When items like seaweed or other Asian smelly specialties would make it into my lunchbox for school, I often wouldn’t eat it. When an Asian joke was made, I never took it personally. I would laugh it off and really had no sense of my identity.”
Guo joined AAA her sophomore year and thereafter became president. The experience proved crucial to her collegiate success, she said.
“I can truly say AAA changed my life,” Guo said. “The amazing people I met in the organization are the ones who got me through my years at Mizzou. I wanted to bring Asian Americans together so we could unite our voices, be counted and heard. I wanted to create an outlet for Asian American students to share -- our stories both past and present that other Asian Americans could relate to.”