As soon as one enters the fourth floor of the Student Union, one can hear the voices of a hub of students long before they are seen.
The Asian American Cultural Center is celebrating its 25th year at the University of Connecticut. The center seeks to help students explore their cultural identity in multicultural America.
The creation of the center began on December 3, 1987 when eight students of Asian descent were taunted and physically assaulted by two students on a bus to an off-campus semi-formal.
“It was a sobering start,” said Angela Rola, founding director of the Asian American Cultural Center.
Following that incident were 18 months of inaction by local law enforcement and university officials, in which the Asian American Students Association and the Asian American Faculty & Staff Association worked to establish the center, opening its doors in 1993.
Tim Yang, junior accounting and political science major and staff member at the cultural center, said the center was home for him. It made the large campus seem small, he said.
“It may seem like the cultural center itself is a small little place, it really is so much more,” Yang said. “There is so much culture to partake it.”
The cultural center staff and volunteers set up games for those coming to celebrate at the center that included life-size checkers, Jenga in which students could sign their names and a station where students could color pieces of a puzzle to be hung up on the wall later on.
Staff and volunteers also walked around and conversed with other students who were mingling and enjoying the celebrations with platters of food laid out with summer rolls, samosas and lumpia.
“Just seeing the amount of food here is crazy,” Yang said. “Food is really a big gathering point for Asian-American families.”
Students who were newly introduced to the cultural center talked with those who have been visiting the cultural center throughout their time at UConn.
Freshman economics major Meilinn Sirichantho said she was introduced to the center by old friends, who introduced her to new friends.
Freshman allied health sciences major Anhthy Pham also made a majority of her friends at the cultural center. She came to the celebration because she said she loves it and had volunteered to take photos at the photobooth station.
“AsACC has a special place in my heart,” Pham said.
Student organizer of the event and senior computer science and engineering major Eddie Huang said he and staff members came together to be thankful for the center and how much it has given to the students. The students worked with catering as well as different student organizations to create the event. The activities overflowed to the outside of center, Huang said.
“It’s been a home away from home,” Huang said when asked about how the center impacted him.
The center makes up for the lack of Asian-American identity at the university, Huang said, calling it “beautiful.”
Yang encourages other students to come to the cultural center.
“It is a place for anyone who is interested in Asian-American culture,” he said. “What really stands out are the programs.”
Those programs include the Asian Mentoring Program. Old students are paired with new students and are a resource for the new students during their time on campus. Other programs include China Care and Kids & UConn Bridging Education.
Rola said her vision of the center from 1993 took her 10 years with more ideas and voices of the students along the way. The needs of the students were important to her, Rola said. The “vibrancy” of the community was what other visiting staff saw, Rola said.
Rola said she had been asked about why she stayed at the center for 25 years.
“It’s all about the students,” Rola said. “It’s what keeps me going.
Kimberly Nguyen is the associate managing editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.