Vietnamese Student Union starts conversation on authentic identity at Sept. 10 meeting

The Vietnamese Student Union holds a discussion where members are encouraged to reflect on their personal identities while fostering connections within the VSU community.

Members of the Mizzou Vietnamese Student Union gathered over Pandan waffles and card games at the start of their meeting on Sept. 10. Music played as junior Annie T.H. Le, president of VSU, picked out cards from a stack with conversational questions.

“If your belly button could secrete any liquid what would it be?” one card read.

“If you had to breed two animals to make a new animal which two would you pick?” the next said.

Around the back table in the Multicultural Center, VSU members laughed at the cards and introduced themselves to one another. More members trickled in and out until about 30 minutes into the meeting when Le began the discussion.

The meeting focused on authentic identity, a topic Le said she was enthusiastic to start a conversation on early in the year. Le led the conversation as a mixture of posing questions about identity and allowing for small group discussion.

Le said she didn’t want to just lecture about identity, she wanted to spark connections. She wanted to create a space for people to explore their identities in their own way.

“I want people to question their identity,” Le said. “I’m a firm believer in thinking about where you come from and about what you believe and challenging those beliefs.”

The meeting ended with members writing down their insecurities about their identities and discussing these concerns with small groups. Then members were instructed to cross out these insecurities and replace them with words of affirmation.

“They are just thoughts,” Le said to the group. “You don’t have to be defined by any of it. You get to choose your identity and you get to choose what you take and what you leave behind.”

Le formed VSU after feeling there wasn’t a place to fully embrace Vietnamese American identity at MU. Le said being a part of the Asian American Association during her freshman and sophomore year felt like her first home on campus, but there was still a piece of her identity that was missing. Le started VSU as a way to bring together a community at MU that embraced this identity and served as a welcoming community for people of any identity to join.

“When I toured [MU] they said there are so many organizations that whatever you can think of they probably have it,” Le said. “Unfortunately, they didn’t have an organization of Vietnamese American students. Even if there isn’t that community, you can create one. You can create the spaces you want to be a part of.”

Edited by Ben Scott |

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