Students have helped bring to The University of Arizona a conference focused exclusively on leadership and identity issues among Asian Pacific American student populations.
The Washington, D.C.-based Organization of Chinese Americans’ “APIA U: Leadership 101 Training” will be held at the UA Feb. 23 and 24, addressing issues that include communication skills, cultural knowledge and social justice education.
The free conference targeting Asian Pacific American students has been touring universities, including Cornell and San Francisco State.
“Our main goal for the conference is to unite all Asian American students,” said Nida Khoutakoun, the Alpha Phi Gamma sorority president and finance major.
“With a conference like this helping to build leadership,” Khoutakoun said, “the Asian community can grow as a whole and have a stronger voice here on campus.”
Her sorority is hosting the conference while the UA’s Asian Pacific American Student Affairs office is supporting the program.
“It’s easy to point out the differences between all of us,” Khoutakoun said, “but hopefully a conference like this will bring us all together and help us to become stronger leaders in our community.”
The effort adds to the list of recent campus initiatives to promote discussions about issues affecting Asian Americans. For example, faculty and staff on campus worked this semester to introduce “Introduction to Asian Pacific American Studies,” an undergraduate colloquium.
The upcoming conference is meant to help students to become action-oriented, said Marc P. Johnston, the Asian Pacific American Student Affairs director.
Presented in a workshop format, the conference will engage students in exercises and discussions. The first day will focus on attitudes, values, emotions, beliefs, stereotypes, management, and other topics, while the second day is offered to help students figure out how they can be more active on and off campus.
“The conference is definitely filling a need,” Johnston said. Johnson believes there still exists the stereotype that Asians are demure, preferring not to voice their opinions and to be active as leaders.
“It’s about understanding who you are – that you are not only a college student,” Johnston said, “but also as an Asian American or Pacific Islander, your racial identity impacts who you are and what you become involved in.”