Getting Involved and Why

By: Tony

One of the most popular pieces of advice you will receive during college is to “get involved”. Of course, there are tons of ways you can get involved, but many are probably not for you. The key to figuring out how to get involved is knowing what you want to get out of it. Do you want to serve others, fight for causes you believe in, or just want to have some fun? Different organizations on campus serve different purposes. I will give examples from my personal experience to demonstrate the wide variety of types of involvement.

Identity-Focused Involvement
My first instance of getting involved on campus was when I joined the Latinx/Chicanx Student Association and began to immerse myself in that community. I come from a very diverse hometown, and coming to Duluth was a bit of a culture shock. That, combined with my heavy involvement with my high school’s Latinx-focused student group, pushed me to become involved with LCSA. Soon after joining, I was elected to the Executive Board as the Freshman Representative, and I was allowed to play a major part in the goings-on of the organization. After a few weeks, the other members of LCSA weren’t just my friends, they were my family away from home. They made me feel like I belonged at UMD when the rest of the campus bogged me down with microaggressions and doubt. Even as a senior, my love for LCSA has never wavered, and I have done everything in my power to make sure that everyone feels as welcome and supported as I have. My involvement with LCSA is deeply rooted in my sense of identity as a Latino, and my experiences with it have made me more secure with that aspect of my identity.

Getting involved on-campus

Campus-Related Involvement
During my freshman year, I became highly-involved with the Multicultural Center. I didn’t get along very well with my roommates, so I would stay in the MC as long as I possibly could every night. As spring semester rolled around, I felt like I knew the MC like the back of my hand, but I wanted to get involved with the rest of campus as well. I was fond of my experience during Welcome Week, so I applied to be RockStar for Welcome Week, and luckily I got in. I suppose I did pretty well because they let me come back two more times. Being a RockStar is incredibly demanding. It requires being flexible, creative, and energetic for five days straight. When I say energetic, I mean it. I’m usually fairly quiet and reserved, but during Welcome Week, I am constantly running around, dancing, and yelling. As draining as it may be, it is also incredibly rewarding. I loved being the freshmen’s first point of contact with the campus. I wanted to ensure that they were as ready for college as they could possibly be. I remember how confusing and intimidating freshman year was, and I wanted to pay forward the great Welcome Week that I had when I was in their position. I wanted to have an impact on the whole campus by ensuring that the student body was well-equipped with the resources they need as soon as possible.

Service-Focused Involvement
Finally, I decided to get involved with campus through direct service to the student body. Which brings me to why I am writing this blog in the first place, as an extension of my position as a Peer Educator. In my position, my job is to provide services and access to resources that my peers need to excel academically and professionally. I want to see everyone I work with land their dream internship or job, and I want to do everything I can to make that dream a reality. All three examples of involvement I have mentioned have degrees of service associated with them, but I feel like my Peer Educator position allows me to directly serve the UMD community on an almost-daily basis.

Of Possible Interest: 

Read Tony’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Danilo Batista

The Impact of Microaggressions

By: Tony

It’s just a fact of life that you are going to come into contact with people who are different than you. Whether it be at school or in the workplace, you will inevitably end up talking to someone whose background isn’t the same as yours. Naturally, you will want to get to know each other, which is great. However, you may run the risk of committing a microaggression.

The impact of microaggressions

What is a Microaggression?
A microaggression can be described as covert or unintentional discrimination. They are words and actions that marginalize certain groups of people, even if it is unintentional. The main issue with microaggressions is that even though they may be minor offenses, they can add up quickly and seriously damage one’s self-image and make them feel as though they do not belong. Often, microaggressions manifest themselves in seemingly innocent ways whose impacts are not apparent unless their underlying implications are thought about.

Examples of Microaggressions and Implications

  • “Where are you from?” “The Twin Cities” “No, where are you REALLY from?”
    • The implication is that the second person is being identified as a foreigner and not as the group they choose to be identified with. If you are wondering about someone’s ethnic or racial identity, there are better ways of going about that.
  • “Can I touch your hair?”
    • The implication is that the body of the person who’s being asked is exotic and a target of curiosity, which is degrading. I’m sure the awkwardness of the situation outweighs the satisfaction of your curiosity.
  • “Oh, you’re Latino?! Do you know (random person)?!”
    • Not all (Latinx/Black/Asian/Native American/Queer/Muslim/etc.) people know each other. Assuming that they do gives the implication that their group is small and lacks diversity.
  • (When speaking to a person of color) “Say something in (foreign language)”
    • This implies that all people of color know a second language, which is not true. Worse, it implies that POCs are trained animals that will respond to your whims.
  • (When speaking to a POC) “You are so articulate”.
    • This implies that POCs are uneducated and unable to make intelligent conversation.
  • Blatantly using the wrong pronoun
    • Yes, mistakes happen, but if you know someone’s preferred pronouns, please use them. Mis-pronouning someone implies that you do not accept them for who they are, or at best, you do not care to listen to them.
  • Catcalling
    • The implication is that you see women as sex objects that only exist more male enjoyment.
  • “That’s so gay!”
    • The implication is that being gay is a negative characteristic.

How to Avoid Microaggressions
In my opinion, the keys to avoiding microaggressions are recognition and reflection. You must recognize when your words or actions, intentional or not, have a negative effect on others. You must also reflect on how you can improve your behavior and become more inclusive. As a general rule, if you are curious about a certain aspect of someone’s life, such as their racial identity or any conditions they may have, get to know them. If they wish to tell you about themselves, they can do so on their own terms. It may also be helpful to ask yourself why you want to know about that aspect. Is it to get to know the person better? Or, is it based on sheer curiosity?

Ultimately, modifying behavior is a personal act that you must figure out yourself, but I think self-awareness is a good starting point. With this information, you can do your part to make your classroom or workspace more inclusive and welcoming to all people.

Of Possible Interest: 

Read Tony’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Michal Grosicki

Navigating through College as a First-Generation Student

By: David

As a first-generation student, the struggles and barriers of navigating through college can often be difficult and strenuous. Scholarships, finances, campus resources, college courses, communication with faculty & staff, you name it. So what defines a first-generation college student? Well, according to a research article published by Maietta back in November, she states, “The two most widely used definitions of FG college students are 1) those students whose parents matriculated, but never graduated with a bachelor’s degree and 2) those students whose parents never persisted past a high school diploma.” (Maietta, 2016). My parents came to the U.S. as immigrants after the Vietnam War never achieved a college degree, therefore I, myself, am a first-generation college student. In today’s post, I’ll be highlighting my experience as a first-generation student (FGS) and how I have navigated through college. With that being said, let’s get started!

david-first-gen

Capitalizing on Campus Resources & Opportunities  

The most significant method for me in navigating through college as an FGS was to capitalize on opportunities and resources provided by departments, student organizations, and offices around campus. More than often, I find that students take these opportunities and resources for granted and make zero effort in leveraging these amazing resources to benefit their college career. From my experience in working in various departments and offices around campus, I have come to realize one thing and that is that the folks who work and operate in a campus setting are all dedicated to helping students. In other words, USE YOUR CAMPUS RESOURCES! Check out the amazing opportunities and resources through academic and campus life departments.

Though this is a case where it is easier said than done to actually capitalize on these opportunities and resources, I would like to chime in on my thoughts and feelings as an FGS. Coming into college, I was very hesitant in using and seeking out campus resources and opportunities. One reason was that I simply felt bad for just using the resources available. Personally, I hate the feeling and concept of using someone to benefit myself and that’s exactly how it felt like at first when using these campus resources. To me, it didn’t feel right setting up meetings and appointments to talk over the things that benefitted me only. My turning point with this mentality was when I first got involved with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) in my second semester of my first year. Through a series of activities and meetings with the ODI staff and student organizations, I was able to gain this trust and understanding that staff and faculty alike are here to serve students because they love doing that exactly. Once I understood that, my experiences as an FGS totally flipped 180 degrees for the better.

Connecting with Staff & Faculty

In addition to leveraging campus resources and opportunities, another asset that truly helped me was connecting with the staff and faculty on campus. Setting up to meet with career counselors, attending office hours, asking career related questions, self-disclosing about troubles as an under-representative minority, the list goes on. I cannot recall how many times where I’ve sought out support and guidance from staff and faculty in situations of dilemma. As the first one to attend college, I don’t have many personal connections to rely on in terms of understanding the college life. Thankfully, I’m extremely fortunate to have found a support system that was able to help me navigate through college when I felt stuck and alone in regards to college life. An important thing to keep in mind as an FGS though is that my positive results required me to take action and make the first step in asking staff and faculty members for support. I realize that it was often hard for my faculty members or staff to realize that I was struggling, and therefore required me to put my pride down and ask for help. I think this is common as well in FGS as this sense of pride is something that is often hard to overcome in a college setting. In closing, staff and faculty members are the pillars of support & generators of knowledge and serve as role models & mentors for ALL students and are folks who students seek for motivation and inspiration. From personal to professional development, the staff and faculty members of campus are the keepers of wisdom that guide students to success through moral and academic support.

Conclusion

With that being said, my experiences as an FGS are not limited and exclusive to just campus resources/opportunities and connecting to staff and faculty. Stick around for next time as I’ll continue forth in sharing more personal experiences as a first-generation student. In the next post, one key concept will focus on the importance of social groups and how important it is to have them. Until next time, I urge you to start thinking about your social groups, how you came to establish them, and what role you and your peers serve within the group. As always, stay gold friends!

Of Possible Interest:
Maietta, H. (2016). Unfamiliar Territory: Meeting the Career Development Needs of
First-Generation College Students. National Association of Colleges and Employers Journal.

Read David’s other posts

Embracing My Identity: I am Generation A

By: David

We are all aware of Generation X and Generation Y, but never has there been such a concept recognized as Generation A until now. As this is my final blog post of the academic year, I would like to wrap up my “Embracing My Self-Identity” series with this last one in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. After returning from the  MAASU Spring Conference at the U of M several weeks ago, I feel rejuvenated and as if I have returned as a new and improved person. After four years of being a student here at UMD, three years of being an active student leader in the Multicultural Center, and three MAASU Spring Conferences (held annually), I can finally, for once, walk around the halls and sit in my classrooms/workplace with complete confidence and truly embrace who I am as an individual, specifically as an Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA). To understand this struggle, let’s take a look at some numbers. The APIA student population (doesn’t include international students) accounts for only 4% of the entire campus community, but continues to be the largest student of color of population on campus. This comes to show how small the student of color population is on UMD’s campus. All data can be found on the Office of Institutional Research webpage. With all that being said, here is the concrete definition of what Generation A is, what it means to be Generation A, and why it is so important to embrace such a movement.  

Generation A is one where we take ownership of who we are. It is a generation where we create our own narratives, tell our own stories, and design spaces for us and by us. We are the future generation of APIA leadership.”

MAASU Poster

Identity Crisis

Before jumping into my reflection and insight, I want to briefly talk about a concept that is especially popular in the field of Psychology which is the state of identity crisis. According to Merriam-Webster, identity crisis is “a feeling of unhappiness and confusion caused by not being sure about what type of person you really are or what the true purpose of your life is.” I mention this because my assumption is that almost every, if not all, college students will experience this at one point or another during their college career. In my two previous posts, this was especially true as I struggled and fell into a state of confusion to figure out how my personal identity, specifically my racial identity, plays a part in the campus community and society as a whole.

MAASU Reflection

This year I was fortunate enough to attend the MAASU conference with 33 of my peers which turned out to be a remarkable experience for many of us. Though I have attended two MAASU Spring Conferences prior to this year, it isn’t until now that I am able to completely embrace my identity with full confidence.  It is true that I have always embraced my identity, but I feel as if there was always a missing piece to the puzzle, or that it wasn’t real or complete. What I took out from this year’s conference then and how it impacted me so tremendously was that it made me realize how important and precious my APIA identity really is.  As I walked around the Twin Cities campus during the conference, I was able to witness a sense of unity among my APIA peers from different parts of the region. With every workshop related to APIA topics and issues, I finally feel as if my identity and history is valid and that there is deep value in learning about the people, traditions, and culture of the APIA community. Growing up as a student of color, never did I learn anything pertaining to Asian American history or about the accomplishments that APIA leaders were able to achieve and because of this it forced me to deny a part of my identity as I had to assimilate to the majority. With MAASU, it was one full weekend that was dedicated to this piece that I, along with many others kept locked away for so long. For once, there is this sense of recognition and acknowledgement that we matter and that our existence matters.

13043221_1023237711055959_2152879639687103572_n

UMD Asian Pacific American Association & Hmong Living in Unity & Balance students at the MAASU 2016 Spring Conference.

13062477_1031905073543609_4706056045604981160_n

UMD Asian Pacific American Association & Hmong Living in Unity & Balance students at the MAASU 2016 Banquet.

Moving Forward

As I have finally achieved or acquired this state of enlightenment and self-actualization, I hope to help others in doing so as well in the future. In addition, I want to become a learner and a teacher, one who is able to learn more about this identity and teach it to those who never had a chance to learn about it. With this, my hope is to do what the conference has done for me, which is to create a sense of validity and importance in the APIA identity and history. Furthermore, I hope to break away from the stereotypes that are placed upon me because of the color of my skin or my physical features. In the end, my ultimate goal before I leave UMD is to have my peers and friends to achieve and acquire this state of enlightenment and self-actualization and to fully embrace their identity with a whole sense of they really are. Even if it is just one, I will be content with my efforts. With that being said, I wish you all well for the rest of finals week and Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!  

Of Possible Interest:

Read David’s other posts

Embracing My Self-Identity II

By: David

As the annual Midwest Asian American Student Union (MAASU) conference approaches in nearly a few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about my experiences as an Asian Pacific American student here on campus. It was about this time around last year when I began thinking about this and wrote, “Embracing My Self-Identity in the Workplace” following the MAASU conference. After a full year, I now want to express and write about what I have done since last year to better understand, embrace, and express my identity as an Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA).

To begin, after last year’s Spring conference I went through a state of personal identity crisis and wanted to learn more about my heritage and culture as an APIA as I lacked a lot of knowledge of my own roots. As I began to learn more and more about myself and my racial identity through following several non-profit organizations on social media, it began to shape my perspective on certain issues and topics. Meanwhile, the more I learned about my racial identity, the stronger my confidence in expressing myself in an authentic manner increased. As an underrepresented student, I began to realize the importance of incorporating my differences and how valuable it is to do so in any environment.  

The most impactful experience that I have had pertaining to this would be my current executive position. As the current President for Asian Pacific American Association (APAA), I have been very fortunate to be in an environment that is constantly dedicated to Asian Pacific American issues and topics. My main focus and dedication for the organization was educating people on APIA topics and creating awareness. As I worked with six of my colleagues/board members, we made sure to consistently highlight topics that were not getting enough attention like APIAs in the media and microaggressions. One of my main goals as the head of the organization was to hopefully enlighten my members and get them to a place where they could appreciate and embrace their personal identity whether or not it was related to the APIA identity. Though my efforts were primarily dedicated to the organization and members I realized that the harder I tried the more I began to understand how this affected me as an individual in the sense that I came to understand my own identity a bit more. Through the research, discussions, and teaching, I learned about my own identity more than I would have ever imagined and with this knowledge my perspective on life has morphed drastically.

APAA

My beloved organization, Asian Pacific American Association (APAA) at UMD

Furthermore, one key concept I learned from this journey so far is applying my knowledge and passion. With such great passion towards my self-identity I have incorporated it into several aspects of life in subtle ways since last year. One way that I have done this is highlighting my experiences in my resume and LinkedIn. In my professional profiles, I try my best to not downplay any of my experiences in APAA because to me, it holds a deep meaning and I want employers to know that I am passionate about issues that pertain to my identity.

LinkedIn

Current LinkedIn profile

By reflecting on my journey so far throughout the year, I have come to realize the growth in myself and impact on others. By understanding my inner-identity and how it all intersects with one another (Asian Pacific American, Straight, Male, College Student, etc.), it gives me a better understanding as to how I can use these privileges to advocate for equality. As the MAASU conference approaches in nearly 48 hours, I am extremely excited for my members, organization, and self to learn more about ourselves and how we can use our knowledge to continuously promote diversity and inclusivity!  

Of Possible Interest:

Read David’s Other Posts

Cultural Competency and Professionalism

By: David

After a fabulous training within the office a few weeks ago, I have been deeply inspired by this idea of cultural competency and professionalism. A huge shout out to our guest presenter, Helen Mongan-Rallis from the Education Department here at UMD. What struck as most eye-opening to me was how easily these two concepts coexist as one. It definitely may seem like common sense for many, but it is common sense that we do not typically think of when it comes down to it. If you want to be culturally competent, you need to be professional. If you want to be professional, you need to be culturally competent. Though the two are not exclusive to one another. Throughout today’s post, I will elaborate on what I learned about culture and power and how it all ties into professionalism.

Culture and Prof

Culture & Power

To better understand culture we must first understand power. It is important to understand that cultural norms are defined by those who are in power. For instance, a key moment from the training was, “how do we define professionalism in a workplace and who gets to control that? Would it be Julie, your director?” You see, when a society or community is newly established or transitions from one to another we have to understand that the ones in power will be the ones determining the cultural norms in these societies and communities and should we break these norms we could be shunned, outcasted, and even despised. This idea that culture stems from power is one that holds much truth to it. Through various lens and perspectives, it is safe to say that EVERYONE has their own sort of culture. For instance, the UMD culture is governed by those in power which can arguably be the students altogether. But what about the culture within certain offices and organizations across campus such as Greek Life, Kirby, MC Organizations, music groups, religious groups, and so forth? Would it be the student leaders of the organization, the adviser, or the members? A quick personal example is one that occurs frequently when I have guests over. As a student of Asian descent, I get annoyed extremely quick when I have people walking around my apartment with their shoes on. As the person in power, the cultural norm under my apartment unit is NO SHOES!  In a nutshell, when having a conversation about culture or enhancing one’s own cultural competency it is important to observe and analyze how these norms come to be based on power.

Professionalism

So how does all of this relate back to professionalism? Well, for starters, I find it important that we understand that professionalism might not look the same for everyone. When greeting, a bow may be accepted in Eastern countries whereas a handshake is the norm in Western countries. Even in the same society, men and women may greet one another differently whether it be a handshake or friendly wave. Secondly, the significance of perceiving professionalism and cultural competency co-existing as one is extremely important. When we want to be professional in the workplace, it is important we are culturally sensitive and aware of such topics and issues that may affect other individuals whether it be race, gender, sexuality, or disability topics. On the flipside, when we want to be culturally competent we need to maintain our professionalism in order to continuously engage and involve ourselves into learning about new ideas, concepts, and topics that are outside our realm of normality. Lastly, it is important to know that professionalism and cultural competency all comes with time and no one will ever perfect these two concepts. I have many friends who are constantly immersed in what should happen in professional environments (they are in the business school), yet they are still anxious about making professional mistakes whether it be dining, dress code, speech and diction, or other acts that fall under professionalism. In comparison, I have many advisers from the Office of Diversity & Inclusion who admit that they are still continuing their path of cultural competency and just because they are people of color does not give them any more credibility to be more culturally competent than others.

In finale, the path to perfecting professionalism and cultivating cultural competency will be a never-ending journey for all of us. These two skills and concepts are critical in today’s workforce as we, as a generation, have become culturally aware and sensitive to diverse populations and communities. In virtue of the two notions, it creates a positive and harmonious work environment for all which increases productivity of the organization. At the end of the day, we have a choice to either ignore these concepts and let it belittle us or constantly invest our time and effort to improve ourselves and those around us collectively.  The choice is yours.

Of Possible Interest: 

Read David’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Benjamin Child

Emerging Majority (My Path)

By: PJay

Remember the first time you came into college? Wasn’t it scary because you didn’t know where anything was, but yet, you were able to ask someone for help? And do you recall when you missed your family, but you got over it since you knew you were going to see them in a couple of days? Now imagine wanting to see your family but you know it wouldn’t be possible because they are probably lost in the jungle that is half way across the world. Or picture needing to know how to do something or get somewhere but not being able to get that point across to anyone due to a language barrier. So many of us overlook other’s shoes. Especially our immigrant parents.

If you are a minority, then there must be many reasons to why you have decided to continue on with your educational path. We may all come from different cultures, and yet, all of us know the importance of grabbing a hold of the opportunities that our parents weren’t allowed to have. Our parents have left their families, friends, and homeland so that we would not suffer from the pain that they had to deal with. So if we were to throw away all of our dreams and goals, it would be the same as throwing away their dreams as well.

What is your path?

There are times when I have questioned myself, “why am I here?” (in college) due to frustration from my back to back exams I haven’t studied for, or the eight pages of math homework I haven’t finished. Whatever it is, it can get to me pretty hard, but I know I cannot quit and that I am not alone. Many people who grew up with English being their second language know what it is like feeling there is twice the pressure to work hard in school. Mainly because of our parents.

I am Hmong, and I come from a family of immigrants. Growing up, no one in my family went to college. I was the first to leave my family and explore a whole new world my parents never got to seek. Sometimes, being the first generation to go to college can be prideful, but it also comes with a lot of responsibilities. Mostly, I am constantly nagged to be the role model for my younger sibling, and cousins. But, I know they just want me to be the best that I can be, which really isn’t much to ask for.

When the puzzle pieces are put together, we must understand that our parents love us very much to get us to where we are. They are the number one people who have dealt with so many people looking down on them. They constantly nag us to try hard in life, not to be annoying but to push us to become better individuals because they really do care. They want us to stand out and change the minds of those who have looked passed us. We should be proud of our beautiful cultures and keep in mind that we must succeed in school to prove how strong and powerful we are.

With that said, I have some words of wisdom. Whenever you feel like quitting, tell yourself that if you can make it through this then you can make it through anything. Remember that nothing is easy in life. We are no longer the minority, because we are the emerging majority. This is my reason why I have chosen this path, what is yours?

Read PJay’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash|Michael Hull