Passion is a key element that drives discussions at meetings of the Asian American Student Collective (AASC), a group that strives to empower Asian American voices within the Wesleyan community and beyond. At the group’s first meeting of the year on Sept. 16, which welcomed an impressive influx of first years, current chair of the group Alton Wang ’16 delved right in by discussing the new goals and projects the group plans to pursue as it moves forward.
The group pushes its members to jump into discussions about past historical events, personal experiences, and identity. More broadly, the AASC is working on enhancing Wesleyan’s Asian American studies curriculum.
“All we really want are classes where we can learn about ourselves,” Wang said.
Currently, the AASC is working with the College of East Asian Studies and the American Studies Department to bring in more courses revolving around Asian American studies.
At the moment Wesleyan only offers two Asian American studies courses, both based in literature. Lynna Zhong ’15, the current senior advisor of the collective, believes that Asian American-centered courses in departments other than English are vital for a nuanced understanding of the culture’s literature.
“Literature is great, but literature has context in terms of why it’s being written…and we have to understand that context before we can really understand the literature and delve into that art,” Zhong said. “I think both of us really want an Asian American history class, because you have to know where you came from.”
Other than enhancing the Asian American studies course selection, the AASC is interested in creating a close-knit community.
“This year we’re trying really hard in terms of building a community, and in having a community of Asian Americans on campus that is more formally united both socially and politically,” Wang said.
In order to achieve such a community, members of the AASC will need to speak openly at meetings.
“We are a social/political organization, but that doesn’t mean we only focus on political issues or things related to Wesleyan,” Wang said. “We also want to create a space where Asian Americans can get together, voice their thoughts, and discuss things that are pertinent to maybe just our community or things that intersect between our community and other communities.”
The AASC ultimately strives to connect the collective to other campus communities, and more specifically to student of color groups.
“One thing Lynna and I both have been trying to do the last two years is to really make sure there is an Asian American voice in the student of color community,” Wang said. “We’re definitely very conscious about other student of color groups and supporting them. We’re planning to do events or host other things with these groups on campus.”
Christine Leung ’17, the financial contact for the collective, explained her initial interest in the group and what pushed her to become a prominent member.
“Back home, the Asian American community is a lot more extensive than it is on campus, so a lot of news and issues regarding Asian American [society] travels really quickly,” Leung said. “I joined AASC because I wanted to be a part of a community here on campus that provides a space for discussion and brings attention to these issues; they affect us all, not just Asian Americans.”
With its engaged leaders and a revived membership, the collective hopes to immerse itself in Wesleyan’s community and foster a more prominent voice within it.