During IU’s celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the Asian American Association is hosting its fifth annual Indiana Asian American Conference on Mar. 30. Created with the purpose of bringing awareness and sparking discussion around political issues and topics within the Asian American experience on campus and the community, the conference will include guest speakers Chris Lam and Chris Chyung, along with educational workshops and a complimentary breakfast and lunch.
Founded in 1987, the Asian American Association is a student-led organization built on instilling a sense of community and bringing insight to the AAPI experience at Indiana University. Kathryn Lin, president of the AAA and a junior majoring in human biology and minoring in chemistry, Spanish, and epidemiology, described how this year’s conference theme, "Young Revolutionaries: Carving a Place for Our Voices,” was chosen for its relevance to their audience of college students and young professionals.
“In society, there are standards and pressure for any young person, to strive for excellence and success, and this is reflected especially in AAPI communities and households,” Lin said. “Pursuing passions and dreams may oftentimes fall second to parental and societal expectations. Our goal in this conference is to find a way to merge the two, and to explore different avenues in which one can fully pursue their wildest dreams.”
This year’s conference will build on the celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month across the university. With the theme of “Building and Empowering Underrepresented Communities,” celebrations will take place at the Asian Culture Center, a center supported by the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs, as well as in offices and departments across the university.
Melanie Castillo-Cullather, director of the Asian Culture Center, described how the conference will add to the current work being done surrounding diversity and inclusion of AAPI communities on campus.
“I believe the Indiana Asian American Conference will bring awareness and visibility to the important issues facing Asian Americans today, particularly those that will have an impact on the future of our young generation,” Castillo-Cullather said. “This conference, which is student-led and organized, is very much in line with our mission and efforts to engage students in outreach and advocacy.”
In previous years, the Indiana Asian American Conference has hosted guest speakers like filmmaker Renee Tajima-Peña in 2017, and comedian and writer Jenny Yang in 2018. This year Chris Lam, a lead series producer at Buzzfeed and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, and Chris Chyung, Indiana’s first Asian American state lawmaker, will speak at the conference. The two guests for this year’s conference were chosen for their brilliance and ability to create their own path in their careers and community. Lin described how “both of these people exemplify what it means to be a young revolutionary - to change the industry and standards around you and to find a place that really belongs to and is solely yours.”
Though the conference is only in its fifth year, the conference has evolved to increase engagement and awareness in not only the IU campus, but the greater Midwest region.
“Our long-term goals are to hopefully make IAAC into an opportunity for people all across Indiana and from a variety of backgrounds to come together and have genuine conversations about AAPI topics,” Lin said. Speaking for the Asian American Association, she hopes the conference will serve “as a catalyst for people to start exploring how they can take their ideas and visions and put them into practice.”
The Indiana Asian American Conference will be held Saturday, Mar. 30 from 10:30AM to 4:30PM at Woodburn Hall and the Hamilton Lugar Global and International Studies Building. Admission is $5, with 60 percent of the proceeds going to the Burmese American Community Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting Burmese immigrants and refugees in Indianapolis. To RSVP for this event, register on the conference event page.
For more information about events taking place throughout Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, visit the Asian Culture Center’s website.