When sophomore Isaac Vu, president and founder of Asian Culture Club, was researching clubs to join, messages of inclusion were striking. From Black Student Union to Pride Alliance to Latinos Unidos N’ Accion, special-focus groups continually spread the message that there was a place for everyone to belong on campus.
But, despite the overwhelming emphasis on diversity at Framingham State, Asian Americans just didn’t fit in the picture.
“There wasn’t anything like Asian culture club,” Vu said.
Asian people make up a comparatively small proportion of the student body at FSU. Vu estimates there may be a total of 126 Asian students on campus, though official demographic data is hard to come by. But, “just because we’re small” statistically, he said, “doesn’t mean we should be erased.”
He added, “I just want people to realize Asians exist on campus.”
Lily Rasakham, a junior and secretary of Asian Culture Club, had a similar sentiment when she arrived at FSU.
“When I was a freshman, I didn’t see many Asians around. But as a junior, I’ve started to see the growth in the Asian community, and I’d like to see it grow more.” As a first-generation student and Asian American, she hopes Asian Culture Club will help students adjust and feel a sense of belonging and acceptance as they navigate through college.
Rose Piz, a sophomore and vice president of the club, said, “I would love to meet more Asians on campus. … It would be nice to know there’s more of us.”
The idea for Asian Culture Club was conceived from Vu’s involvement in planning last year’s semi-formal dance with SUAB. He was interested in theming the dance on Asian cultures, but several people were concerned over potential complaints of “appropriation” on the part of SUAB.
Considering there are a variety of culturally themed groups on campus, Vu saw there was considerable opportunity to shine light on a vibrant and diverse, yet underrepresented, group at Framingham State.
Although the club has just taken flight, members have ambitious visions for its future.
Vu has plans of holding dances and singing performances to show off traditional Asian music from around the continent. He also had the idea of handing out money bags for the Lunar New Year, a common practice in Chinese New Year’s celebrations.
Vu made sure to specify, “It’s not just going to be like a history class. … I want people to get something out of it.”
Piz proposed the idea of showing Asian movies and media presentations.
Rasakham was excited about sharing Asian cuisine with the student body – “The dining hall has Asian food, but it’s not real Asian food,” she said.
She hopes to host interactive cooking workshops to show students of all backgrounds how to make authentic Asian cuisine.
Besides the excitement of broadening students’ horizons, Asian Culture Club is fundamentally about building understanding and community. Students of all ethnicities are welcome to join in a shared mission of educational outreach and acceptance across cultural barriers, regardless of their prior exposure to Asian heritage.
Jordan Peterson, advisor for the club and a staff member at SILD, summed it up nicely – “Empowering students … it boils down to, I would say, to just see a new form of community starting. It’s really why I do my job.”