Linda Ngo’s involvement in the Midwest Union of the Vietnamese Student Associations began early in her time at Indiana University. A junior studying human biology from Fort Wayne, Ind., Ngo first got involved at the urging of her cousin, Alex Ngo, who aspired to relaunch the Vietnamese Student Association at IU Bloomington. Together, Linda and Alex worked to build the association’s membership and host programming that brought understanding of Vietnamese history and culture to the IU Bloomington community.
Today, their work has culminated in IU Bloomington’s hosting of the 17th Annual Vietnamese Interacting as One (VIA-1) Conference. Held from Mar. 22-24, the VIA-1 conference will gather students from Vietnamese Student Associations across the Midwest at IU Bloomington in a transformative, weekend-long learning experience on Vietnamese contemporary identity, self-care and representation.
“We were really ecstatic to have this conference here, as well as to expose our members to something so big and so cherished by so many people,” Linda, who served as one of the conference’s executive directors, said.
Taking place at the end of March, the VIA-1 conference marks the opening of Indiana University’s celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPIHM). Celebrated throughout April, AAPIHM will give Indiana University the opportunity to recognize the achievements, histories, and contemporary cultures of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, both at IU and around the world. On the Bloomington campus, these celebrations are primarily hosted by the Asian Culture Center, a center supported by the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs, and will focus on the theme of “Building and Empowering Underrepresented Communities.”
“The student leaders in the IU Vietnamese Student Association have worked generously and diligently since last summer preparing for this weekend’s VIA-1 conference. I am excited about the energy that the students bring to the conference,” said Melanie Castillo-Cullather, director of the Asian Culture Center. “Their line-up of intellectually stimulating topics is amazing! Their passion for sharing their culture and their stories, and providing support for their peers is inspiring! Hosting this wonderful conference during the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is so fitting as we reflect on the contributions, learn about the heritage and diverse stories of Vietnamese Americans.”
Throughout the VIA-1 conference, workshops, speakers and group activities will expand on the themes celebrated across Indiana University during AAPIHM. According to Linda, this year’s conference theme, “Through The Reflection,” will allow attendees to examine the concept of reflection from two different perspectives: reflecting on one’s past, cultural heritage and community, and reflection as a means of representation, self-love and self-care.
For this year’s conference, Lisa Kwong, undergraduate lecturer in the IU Bloomington Asian American Studies Program, will serve as the conference’s keynote speaker. Kwong’s presentation will be supplemented with varied programming throughout the weekend, including workshops on identity, artistic performances, and group activities focusing on self-love and self-care. According to Linda, the weekend will also end with a heartwarming farewell ceremony that will stick with attendees long after the close of the conference.
For Linda, hosting the conference means carrying on a spirit of community she found when she first attended a VIA-1 conference.
“I was very surprised at how welcoming everyone was, how I bonded so well with students who from places like Kansas or Wisconsin. Even though they lived miles away, we still had that connection,” Linda said.
Alex, a senior from Fort Wayne, Ind., studying human biology and history, was proud to see the hosting of the VIA-1 conference as the culmination of the work helping revitalize IU Bloomington’s Vietnamese Students Association. Alex also hoped that the conference would provide students from all backgrounds the opportunity to better understand the Vietnamese American community, as well as to foster a renewed appreciation for identity and culture.
““I hope that people leave this event having broadened their perspective at how they look at things,” Alex said.
For more information about the VIA-1 conference, visit the conference’s website. For information about events and programming taking place at IU throughout AAPIHM, visit the Asian Culture Center’s website.