Breaking stereotypes was the theme of the first annual LEAD conference, held on Sunday as part Texas A&M’s Asian, Pacific Islander, Desi American (APIDA) heritage month.
LEAD, the Leadership Education for APIDA Development, is a conference aimed at celebrating APIDA Aggies and challenging stereotypes. The event was held by the Asian Presidents Council (APC) and hosted in the MSC. Topics of identity, relationships and work experiences were discussed from the Asian American perspective.
According to Diana Lee, Multicultural Services advisor, the LEAD marked the first annual conference held specifically for Asian American Aggies.
Jessica Hsu, vice president of APC and nutrition senior, has been involved with APC since her freshman year, when she took an internship position with the Department of Multicultural Services. She said part of APC’s goals are to show Asian Americans do not conform to stereotypes.
"We are trying to tackle the model minority myth, the myth that depicts that Asians Americans don't need help or assistance just because we seem self-sustainable, we're good enough, but in reality we go through struggles just like everyone else," Hsu said. "And because of our identity and this myth, we go through more obstacles."
According to Hsu, the conference's theme, "Setting the Standard," is inspired by the idea of breaking the stereotype of the model minority. Bringing a community together, the conference delved into student's experiences.
“Setting the standard is basically ... ‘There is a standard I have to be in order to be successful as an Asian American,’” Hsu said. "Through these workshops and breakout sessions, we want them to understand there is no standard."
Diana Lee is the program advisor of in the Department of Multicultural services and works specifically with the APC. According to Lee, it was past time for A&M to develop a conference to celebrate the Asian American identity.
"SCOLA and SBSLC, which are both conferences geared toward our Black and Hispanic communities, they've been around for 30 years," Lee said. "Both of the conferences have celebrated their 30th year this year and then here we are with LEAD and our APIDA entrance conference in its first year. It's never happened before, it's big."
According to Lee, while Asian students gain their degree at A&M, some students can graduate without being fully prepared for the workforce. Her work in Multicultural Services aims to provide APIDA students with assistance they may not have even known they needed.
"For me, it's really exciting to see students … who are really doing the work of creating a community … advocate for their identity and for their future," Lee said. "Their lives don't stop after they graduate from A&M, and so [they’re] making sure that they're prepared after they graduate to take on a world that they may not be ready for when they leave Aggieland."
According to Hsu, from fall 2016 to fall 2017, the APIDA community is the fastest growing population of incoming undergraduates at A&M. The Asian American population now represents seven percent of the total population of the university.
At A&M, APIDA Heritage Month is celebrated in April. This month is devoted to the culture and contributions of the APIDA individuals who have impacted American history and society.
"I think the reason why I really kept with APC is the … many sub-groups and this is the one month that we all come together," Hsu said. "Despite our locational differences, [we] celebrate our identity and the American Asian leaders that shape American history."