AsACC hosts IMPAACT which stands for Identifying the Missing Power of Asian Americans in Connecticut on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2019 in the Student Union Ballroom. The theme for the event was “Weaving our Individual Stories into Collective Power”. Photos by Charlotte Lao / The Daily Campus.
The unification of a diverse cultural community such as that of the Asian American population is an ambitious venture, considering the many different identifying groups that make it up, but the IMPAACT conference this year was up to the challenge. This past Saturday in the Student Union, the Pan Asian Council (PAC) of the Asian American Cultural Center (AsAAC) hosted the Identifying the Missing Power of Asian Americans in Connecticut (IMPAACT) Conference, which brought together leaders and members of various organizations and initiatives associated with the cultural center. The conference seeks to empower students in their personal self-development, identity development and leadership skills and gives them the opportunity to meet other student leaders to foster collaboration and solidarity, which many students felt was achieved.
“As someone who struggled with my identity for a while, I found the event really empowering and showed me how strong the Asian/Asian American community can be,” Thomas Shao, a seventh-semester physiology and neurobiology major, said. “I hope we can bring this event back to our circles and use this to support one another.”
IMPAACT 2019’s theme, “Weaving our Stories into Collective Power,” focused on exploring the complex composition of the Asian American identity and using it to take action.
“My personal mission for PAC was to create a sense of unity and community because I think that’s something that we were striving to achieve, but it was difficult to do so with such diverse coalitions,” Ethan Kimaru, a fifth-semester marketing major, said. He serves as the PAC coordinator, who oversees the numerous representatives from the Asian American student organizations affiliated with AsAAC. “For this year’s IMPAACT, our core themes were identity exploration, community building and leadership.”
This year’s conference was facilitated by Rita Zhang, a scholar-activist from Oakland, California, who has worked on issues concerning racial coalition building, higher education access and equity and community building. PAC invited Zhang to facilitate after she spoke as a guest lecturer on campus last semester.
“I definitely knew I wanted to bring [Rita] back one day and after I got the PAC coordinator position, that fantasy became a reality,” Kimaru said. “With Rita involved, [the theme] kind of was approached from an activism perspective, which was a little bit different. A lot of our students haven’t really experienced [that] before and I really think that it turned out well and I’m really proud of everyone that was involved.”
The use of personal storytelling and an activity focusing on Asian American origins, hxstory and identity through a political perspective preempted breakout sessions through coalitions grouped together by identity. The continuous facilitated and open dialogue between students about issues in their specific communities and on campus was well-received by attending students, who made plans of action and change concerning what was discussed.
“Today, I learned a lot [about] the issues within AsACC, [as] organizations all feel like there’s a sense of disconnect and disunity,” Emily Chan, a third-semester allied health major, said. She came as a representative of the Taiwanese Students Association. “The problem is, none of us really talk to each other beyond organizations like PAC. If there’s one thing I got out of today, [it’s] that we all really want to connect with each other and make AsACC and better place and also make AsACC connected to the other cultural centers. It really opened my eyes to how much more there is to AsACC and how much community there is, and even though … we could definitely work on unity and be more visible and put out more initiatives, we still have a beautiful thing.”
Even students who were not specifically part of ASACC previously felt benefitted by the event.
“I’m not a part of any cultural organizations at UConn but I attended IMPAACT from reading emails and word of mouth,” Christine Pan, a seventh-semester pharmacy student, said. “Attending the conference allowed me to meet so many people with different stories, but also helped me [realize] the similarities within us all.”
After attending the conference, some students, like Pan, felt more inclined to be involved with AsAAC and the other cultural organizations available on campus.
“I [wish] I had been more involved with AsACC earlier in my college career,” Pan said. “Even though I’m a senior, I want to spend my second semester joining a cultural organization and attending different events, whether it’s for East Asians, South Asians … I hope to bring friends with me to various event[s] to help spread awareness as well, and hopefully create a chain reaction.”
The day-long event was jam-packed with events, panels, discussions groups and prizes, all of which was made possible by the many different volunteers, workers, administrators and leaders who were working toward the conference and cultural center’s missions.
“I just wanted to give a final thank you to all the professional staff, student staff and my PAC leadership board because without them this event would not have been possible,” Kimaru said. “With all the hard work they showed tonight, I’m sure that the mission we were trying to achieve will be realized in the coming future.”
Hollie Lao is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.