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Employee affinity AAPI group celebrates minority voices

As the school year draws to a close with finals the first week of May, Asian/Pacific Heritage Month is just beginning. May has been AAPI month since 1992 when President George H.W. Bush designated the month to honor and celebrate the many cultures. 

The fifth month of the year being chosen holds significance, according to Kettering College. 

“May was designated AAPI month to commemorate the first Japanese immigrants to arrive in the U.S. in 1843. May was also chosen as a way to remember the Chinese immigrants who worked tirelessly to create the first transcontinental railroad in America in May of 1843 and ending in May of 1869,” the website says.  

May has now evolved to hold significance to those who identify under the AAPI term as a month to celebrate and honor their culture, heritage and history. 

The identity AAPI is not monolithic, however, and refers to around 75 countries from the Asian continent as well as the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.

According to the Ohio University Diversity Dashboard, as of the 2022/2023 school year, 131 faculty members identify as Asian. 

OU has its own employee affinity group for Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islanders: Leadership, Education, Advocacy and Development, or AAPI-LEAD. AAPI-LEAD stresses the importance of inclusivity for all who identify under this and those who don’t. It also serves as a medium for professors who identify as such can come together to celebrate and appreciate their heritage and culture. 

Yuchun Zhou, an associate professor of Educational Studies, spoke about the inclusiveness of this organization. 

“We include people from different countries, including AAPI countries, and also we have some faculty members from the United States,” she said. “So we have both insiders and outsiders for this organization because we want to be inclusive as much as possible.” 

AAPI-LEAD has been active for about three years and is working to continue to make strides for AAPI faculty and students. President Zhou said the organization has created a space for those who identify under the AAPI umbrella as well as those who do not. 

“We want to bridge the gap between AAPI people and domestic people in the U.S.,” she said. “So we want to improve intercultural communication and understanding in order to make the whole community more inclusive.”  

One way that AAPI-LEAD does this is by hosting events articulated for AAPI employees and students, as well as anyone else, to come together to celebrate their culture and strengthen these intercultural relationships. 

AAPI-LEAD’s biggest event that takes place annually is its Global Education Fair. AAPI-LEAD works with the Center for International Studies as well as the Athens City School District to bring further awareness of varying cultures and identities to the Athens local community. International and education students collaborate in teaching these K-12 students about different cultures and heritages. 

Zhou said the vast range of cultures that were presented to the students. 

“We presented more than 20 different cultures to K-12 students and their parents,” she said. “This year we had more than 200 parents and students showing up for this event, so they learn different countries and cultures.”

Vice president for events, Yuqiu You, a professor of engineering technology and management, said this event affected AAPI staff and students.

“We get AAPI faculty, staff and even international students involved,” she said. “So there are a lot of international students actually involved in that event. And I think that they feel that they’re connected to the community.” 

AAPI-LEAD is not only a space for students and faculty but also gives time and effort to strengthen these intercultural relationships. 

This organization gives students and professors a space to appreciate, celebrate and explore AAPI culture and heritage, bringing people from all communities together. 

“This organization is very important to students because students also need to feel like they are in a very diverse and inclusive environment and there are faculty members that can understand them,” Zhou said.

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