U.Va. students host East Coast Asian American Student Union Campus Tour

ASU and OYFA organize faculty panel, identity workshop and town hall

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The "Campus Tour" included a town hall, faculty panel and an Identity Workshop.

Sydney Bradley | Cavalier Daily

This past Saturday, the Asian Student Union and Organization of Young Filipino Americans partnered to host the East Coast Asian American Student Union. ECAASU is a nonprofit, volunteer-run organization that reaches out to Asian American and Pacific Islander student groups across the country. Their mission is to “inspire, educate, and empower those interested in Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) issues.” 

Each year, ECAASU hosts a national conference at a university. Leading up to this, they visit schools through their “Campus Tours,” which are partnerships with Asian American student groups and ECAASU that aim to educate and empower university students. According Joseph Malasa, a third-year College student and current president of OYFA, this was the first time ECAASU held this event at the University of Virginia.

The event had five major components that were spread out throughout the morning and afternoon. It began with a keynote speech from Geeta Patel, an associate professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures. Malasa and Lauren LeVan, a fourth-year College student and ASU president, then invited the attendees to the Multicultural Student Center in Newcomb Hall for the remainder of the events.

Kevin Koo, an ECAASU advocacy outreach coordinator, hosted the Identity Workshop in the MSC. The student groups also invited three University faculty members to sit on a panel and answer questions from Malasa and LeVan, as well as the audience. The three professors were Asst. Media Studies and American Studies Prof. Shilpa Davé, Assoc. English Prof. Sylvia Chong and Assoc. Media Studies Prof. Camilla Fojas. They spoke on the need for Asian American history, the new College curriculum, allyship and how students can make a difference at the University. 

“Personally as an American Studies major, I think it is very important to hear the faculty or people who are my role models to support the initiatives that comprise my identity,” Malasa said.

“I liked the panel as well, and I think I liked it because it gave teachers in Asian American studies a way to talk about issues in an event and a context that they are not normally able to,” said Gabby Garvey, a second-year College student and OYFA member.

Following the faculty panel, the event concluded with a town hall, moderated by Leangelo Acuna, a ECAASU coordinator for Campus Tours. According to LeVan, the town hall was important to have in light of the violent white nationalist events of Aug. 11 and 12. 

“Especially after the August 11th and 12th events, I felt like a lot Asian Americans were angry and hurt and frustrated,” LeVan said. “I believe a lot of them were caught off guard with how to respond, how to organize, how to collectively act in support of the Black community, of immigrants and DREAMers alike.”

The town hall concluded in an action plan training portion aimed at empowering student engagement and action after hearing the concerns that were raised throughout the event. 

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