Ryan Jarvi

The month of February marks one of celebration at Grand Valley State University, with Asian Pacific American Heritage events on the Allendale Campus that all seek to broaden students’ knowledge of the many diverse cultures and ethnicities of the Asian world.

Connie Dang, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, founded the celebration in 2003.
Dang said a committee was organized with faculty, staff and students to design the celebration events so they would complement material students are learning in classes.

“I wanted to make sure we work with faculty members that teach East Asian studies and modern languages to connect the classroom activities with the extracurricular activities,” Dang said.

Events will include lectures from GVSU faculty and guest speakers addressing different topics like “Asian American and Pacific Islander Women in Higher Education” and “Learning Chinese—How to Make it Easy.”

Jerika Nguyen, president of the Asian Student Union, said one event she will be attending is a lecture by Gia Bao Tran at 6 p.m., Feb. 6 at the Cook-Dewitt Center on campus.

“He’s talking about his book ‘Vietnamerica,’” Nguyen said. “It’s a graphic novel about his family and his family’s history and the history of Vietnam, and we’re going to be attending that for a general meeting.”

Samuel Cho, who handles public relations for the Asian Student Union, said students will gain the perspective of different cultures by attending the heritage celebration events.

“Learning is an ability,” Cho said. “What we hope is that students of Grand Valley know about diversity and different cultures, and hopefully through these events they learn something about our culture.”

The myGVSU survey established by the Inclusion and Equity Office was used as a tool to assess the pulse of GVSU, Dang said. The results of that survey helped the committee in planning the celebrations.

“Under the Asian umbrella there are many complex groups,” Dang said. “When setting up the Asian Pacific American Heritage Celebration, we try to be comprehensive in terms of addressing not only the variety of different topics, but also addressing the different ethnic groups under that umbrella.”

Nguyen said she thinks the university is doing a better job of addressing its diverse population, mentioning events honoring both Black history and Native American history.

“There are a lot of different months for other cultural organizations to promote their events as well, and I feel like it’s expanding,” Nguyen said, noting the recent class cancellation for MLK Day. “I think it’s important to understand other cultures, and I think Grand Valley has done well for the amount of events this past year.”

Cho said he also thinks the university is trying to encourage students to learn about different cultures, but he hopes that more students will become involved with student organizations on campus.

It can be difficult at times for student groups to gain members, Cho said, and he wanted to address the fact that students don’t have to be Asian to join the Asian Student Union.

“We welcome any races, any people from different cultures,” Cho said. “We accept everyone.”
Asian Student Union meetings are held Wednesdays at 6 p.m. in 2270 Kirkhof.

For more information on the Asian Pacific American Heritage celebrations, visit www.gvsu.edu/oma.
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