The members of Minnesota State University, Mankato’s Asian American Affairs hope to gain a voice to make the campus safe and friendly for Asian-American and Asian students.
The Asian American Affairs (AAA) is a program to provide Asian students with a safe space and helps them feel safe at MNSU. AAA, which serves as an advocate for cultural diversity on campus, consists of four main sub-organizations: Asian Pacific Student Organization (APSO), Hmong Student Association (HSA), Vietnamese American Student Association (VASA) and Korean Student Association (KSA). The members of AAA talk about their missions, challenges, and purpose of the organization.
In an effort to bolster the diversity on campus, MNSU now has around 1,200 international students from over 90 countries around the world, including more than 200 Recognized Student Associations. APSO, which has a strong presence in all the RSO’s, is the largest Asian student organization working to recruit and retain Asian and Pacific students by bolstering Asian and Pacific cultural roots at MNSU.
The president of APSO, Ian Yang, a 22-year-old biochemistry major at MNSU, talks about the importance of diversity on campus during the interview.
“I think MNSU is one of the most racially diverse colleges in Minnesota, and this is very important for us because we are able to take advantage of this good opportunity to understand about the racial equity and social justice for the community,” Yang said.
As part of its efforts, APSO has been holding various events to focus on gathering Asian and Asian-American students from all over the world and is hoping that they can foster unity and a community of cultural and social support by providing educational and social programs.
“I think it’s also important to break the barrier on ethnicity,” said Yang. “The reason why we named it in the Asian Pacific Student Organization was to get everyone intermixed to not limit students to specific countries or ethnicities.”
However, there have been many sessions of trial and error to get to where they are now. In the beginning of the launch of APSO, most students knew about APSO nor what kind of student organizations they could join in. Hence, the board members of APSO strive to promote the organization for students and to also come up with intriguing ideas to raise students’ awareness and call attention to the organization.
Yoon, 23, who now works as an event coordinator of KSA, mentions that it is important for student associations to gather students together and provide them with resources and conversations regarding Asian culture on campus.
“When I first started working at KSA, it was really stressful because I had to think of a meeting idea every week to make students interested in our organization. After much consideration, we came up with a few of retainable and intriguing ideas such as sharing stories, making traditional Asian food or dance night,” Yoon said.
On top of that, the members of AAA say in chorus that many student associations are suffering from lack of funds, which allows them to engage more minority students at MSU. Cher Vang, 21, is the treasurer of APSO and places importance on the role government brings to students’ various experiences and perspectives into our community.
“It is highly crucial for student associations to get enough finances under control with a budget management so we are able to get more opportunities to reach out to as many students who are interested in our organization through a series of diversity-themed student events and activities. I wish the government would be more interested in student associations like APSO and not to be overshadowed because of a lack of money,” Vang said.
Yang says the university plays a huge role in providing students with educational experiences as well as essential skills to improve their employability and advancement in today’s dynamic workforce. Yang adds other reasons why students need to join associations – on campus and off.
“It gives you not only a safe and inclusive shelter but also [has] opportunities to learn from people of different cultures and background. Minority students who are interested in our organization can also socialize with upper-classmen through recognized student associations. I hope this organization is reaching out to many students to increase diversity in our community,” Yang said.