Asian, Asian-American students and staff share K-State experiences

The Morris Family Multicultural Student Center, located next to the K-State Student Union, is home to the university’s multicultural organizations, including the Asian American Student Union and SPICMACAY. (Kaylie McLaughlin | Collegian Media Group)

The Atlanta, Georgia, attacks on Asian-American women rocked the country a few weeks ago. Since then, protests and calls for action to support Asians and Asian Americans have erupted across the country.

April marked the beginning of Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Heritage Month for Kansas State’s Asian American Student Union. While it usually takes place in May, having it in the month of April allows for students to engage in a full month of celebration while on campus. AASU will host several events throughout the month to celebrate.

These events are meant to educate K-State students, staff and faculty about issues that affect members of the APIDA community, according to the Diversity and Multicultural Student Affairs website.

All of these factors are sparking conversations about the experiences of the APIDA community at K-State.

Dat Tran, graduate student in mass communications and teaching assistant, said he believes K-State should encourage students to take diversity-related courses in their disciplines, he also thinks these kinds of topics should be introduced to children at an even younger age, somewhere around the elementary-level.

“As a graduate student and GTA at JMC, I have mutual respect with faculty members and students. Our school is incredibly inclusive and open,” Tran said. “I have never had to suffer acts of overt racism or discrimination, although there have been glances thrown at me in the grocery store or other public places. Nevertheless, I cannot affirm that they all meant malice.”

Tran said his introverted personality, on top of COVID-19 restrictions, has impacted his experience at K-State more than his race or ethnicity.

“I am not a sociable person who is proactive in networking and making new friends,” Tran said. “I try to focus on my works and keep my social circle minimal. As an introvert, I am comfortable with that, but it also means that I have never joined any student union or organization on campus.”

As a graduate teaching assistant for MC612 — Gender, Race, Class and Media — Tran said he realized such courses can benefit everyone, including instructors.

“I cannot say that a quick solution can help us create and strengthen a more diverse community,” Tran said. “However, as I believe that the more we understand, the less we hate. I encourage everyone to read and study as much as they can about diversity and inclusivity.”

Yue Teng-Vaughan, assistant professor in hospitality management, said K-State has fostered diversity on campus despite the difficulties brought on by COVID-19.

“Because of COVID-19 I didn’t get to experience much, but I am impressed by the university’s effort on diversity and inclusion,” Teng-Vaughan said. “I am happy to see the multicultural center being built.”

Teng-Vaughan said her children go to K-State’s Center for Childhood Development, where she was invited to speak about her culture.

“I feel valued that they learn about Chinese New Year and decorate their center during Chinese New Year,” Teng-Vaughan said.

In the three years she has spent at K-State, Xinyu Zhang, senior in hospitality management, said she noticed few Asian people on campus but doesn’t feel her experience has been different because of her race.

Zhang is from an eastern province in China called Fujian. While her family has never been to the United States, she has lived and gone to school here for seven years.

After attending high school in Overland Park, Zhang chose to fulfill her college career at K-State with her friends from high school.

“Half of my class in high school [chose to] come to K-State. Me and some of my friends [chose] to be together in college,” Zhang said.

Zhang believes non-Asian and Asian American people can stay united to create and strengthen a more diverse community.