AAA focuses on inclusivity at UnificAsian

AAA President Yu said she wanted to accomplish the same feeling she had when she experienced the event last year.

The Asian American Association hosted their annual UnificAsian: The Four Elements event Sept. 7 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Stotler Lounge in Memorial Union to welcome new students interested in Asian Pacific Islander American culture to MU.

The approximately 100 attendees comprised of incoming freshmen, transfer students and international students. They participated in activities planned by event co-coordinators Brandon Spink and Gina Gualberto.

“I wanted to accomplish the same feeling I had when I experienced UnificAsian last year,” AAA President Victoria Yu said. “I came in very scared and very shy. It was such a great experience because everyone was so welcoming and I really stepped out of my comfort zone.”

Freshman Linda Quach said these goals were definitely met.

“I didn’t know anybody when I came here, so it was definitely a good experience to meet people and make friends,” she said.

This was not accomplished without planning. Gualberto and Spink said they split responsibilities, such as communication with incoming freshmen, scheduling and budgeting for the event.

Following a lunch provided by AAA, attendees saw performances given by a number of AAA umbrella organizations including a cultural dance by the Filipino American Student Association, a hip hop number by the OFFICIAL Dance Crew and a Bollywood-style routine from the South-Asian Student Association.

The show was well-received by members of the audience, including Chinese international student, Peter Yu.

He said the groups “worked very hard (in preparation), and it was really good.”

After the entertainment, participants engaged in small and large group activities designed to foster team and relationship building.

This aligned with the goals of Gualberto in planning the event, Victoria said.

The day concluded with an activities mart meant to advertise opportunities for new students to get involved through AAA umbrella organizations.

Victoria said AAA originally sent out letters of invitation to students who identify as Asian. However, she said the event embraced “anyone open to learning about Asian-American culture.”

“We are very inclusive,” she said. “We just want to build a community, and (we) are very focused on diversity.”

Gualberto agreed, but said there is more to AAA than just diversity.

“We do want to spread awareness of Asian Americans on campus, but we’re not always for that,” she said. “We’re not an offended minority. We like to have fun.”

Through previous experiences with AAA and the 2014 UnificAsian event, Peter offers perspective on the need for the organization at MU.

“As an international student, AAA is especially appealing,” he said. “Many of them want to get to know more about America, but they simply don’t have the chance because there is a cultural barrier or language barrier.”

Peter said the problem of “separation” between international students and the rest of campus could be solved, thanks to events like UnificAsian.

“AAA stands at a unique point,” he said. “They are the bridge between international students and American students on this campus. (The separation) is one thing I really hope will change in the future, and AAA could really do something to make this happen.”

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