On Nov. 13, the Asian American Cultural Center (AsACC) held their annual Identifying the Missing Power of Asian American in Connecticut (IMPAACT) Conference in the Student Union Ballroom. The event aims to empower students in their individual journeys of development in leadership, identity and self. In the past, IMPAACT offered students an opportunity to network with one another through various workshops and keynote presentations related to mental health awareness, cultural awareness, leadership development and social justice.
This year’s IMPAACT differed by focusing on building community. IMPAACT coordinators Tam Vu and Wasif Zaman felt the need to provide community and space for students to share their experiences. With the rise of Asian hate crimes and the Black Lives Matter movement this past summer, the coordinators wanted to offer a space for healing.
“IMPAACT in past years has been transformative mainly in career ways, but I feel this year that’s not what our community needs. Our community needs healing, it needs space for people to feel safe and that their lived experience in the last year is validated,” said Tam Vu, fifth-semester nutritional sciences major.
During the conference, keynote speaker Mike Keo shared his personal experience in relation to the rise of Asian hate crimes. Keo started the #IAMNOTAVIRUS campaign, which provides a space for Asian American people to share their stories. Keo also founded IMPAACT when he was a student at the University of Connecticut.
Keeping with the community theme, this year’s IMPAACT had various interactive and team-building activities. Each attendee was placed into “family” groups in which they remained for the duration of the conference. Family group leaders led attendees through activities such as icebreakers and flag decorating.
Attendees were also encouraged to attend workshops facilitated by UConn faculty and other faculty outside of the university. Some of these workshops were “Intersectionality in Passion,” “Financial Literacy,” “Drama and Theater” and “Self Care in Activist Space.” Peggy Choy, an instructor from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, led students through a dance in the “Intersectionality in Passion” workshop. Choy described dance as a way to connect people with the earth. Students learned how their passions intersect and can be used for various causes. The “Drama and Theater” workshop was led by the current AsACC graduate student, Kaitlyn Trieu.
“[IMPAACT] in the past year was more social,” said Vu. “The students have a say in how it looks and how it feels. All of these activities, they’re special not in the way that they are…What makes them special is the group that you are with. We didn’t have family in the past for IMPAACT. And I really wanted to emphasize that the activities reflected a sense of community.”
As reiterated by attendees and event organizers,
, this year’s IMPAACT conference focused on a tight-knit community. Since it occurred at the beginning of the pandemic, IMPAACT 2020 was fully virtual. Many undergraduate students within the Asian/Asian American community at UConn expressed pleasure at experiencing their first in-person IMPAACT Conference.