Fresno State AAPIDA community showcase different cultures in networking event

Asian and Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (AAPIDA) partnered with the Cross-Cultural and Gender Center (CCGC) for its fall networking at Fresno State Library’s Ellipse Gallery on Nov. 10. (Manuel Hernandez/The Collegian)

Asian and Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (AAPIDA) faculty, staff and students were given a dedicated space to network and build new relationships at Fresno State Library’s Ellipse Gallery on Nov. 10.

From deep conversations about different AAPIDA cultures to laughter filling up the room during gift giveaways, everyone seemed to enjoy the networking event and embracing the cultures many don’t get to see at Fresno State. 

“This event was actually very eye opening and interesting. I honestly didn’t expect to get the insight that I got, especially speaking with the different faculty,” said Sheena Palaruan, a Fresno State student who attended the event. “I didn’t even know there were different kinds of Asian faculty on campus, so it was pretty cool to see everyone here.”

Each semester, the Asian Faculty and Students Association (AFSA) hosts its networking event, but after a pause due to COVID-19, the event returned in-person in collaboration with the Cross-Cultural and Gender Center (CCGC). 

AFSA’s fall networking event split students into multiple tables where different faculty and staff were sitting to discuss a variety of “”speed-dating questions,” according to the event handouts, before switching to another table after 20 minutes. 

Fresno State students, faculty and staff were asked “speed dating” questions related from advice for a professional career to favorite Boba drinks. (Manuel Hernandez/The Collegian)

Kathy Moua, CCGC’s coordinator for Asian Pacific Islander and American Indian Programs and Services, organized the event. 

“The importance of this event, especially after the pandemic, is to feature and showcase our Asian faculty, staff and students because our university is an AANAPISI  [Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander serving institution], but how many Asian students do you actually know?” Moua said. 

The event offered Cambodian food like Lort Cha, a rice pin noodle dish, and Cha Kreung Satch Moan, a chicken stir-fry. Fresno State professor and AFSA vice president Earl Aguilera also showcased Filipino martial art sticks, also known as Escrima Sticks, that were used after the Spanish colonization of the country. 

Cambodian food was provided during the Asian Faculty and Student Association fall networking event on Nov. 10. (Manuel Hernandez/The Collegian)

Palaruan said she connected with faculty like Aguilera, who is Filipino, because she thought there were only Filipino students at Fresno State. 

“It’s very awesome. I felt a sense of belonging, especially when he pulled out the [Escrima] sticks. That’s actually super cool. I didn’t know that was a part of our culture, and I’m from the Philippines,” she said. 

Fresno State assistant professor Earl Aguilera showcases Escrima sticks, a martial arts weapon from the Philippines. (Manuel Hernandez/The Collegian)

Aguilera sat at a table alongside Gaonoucci Belle Vang, who works for Fresno State’s AANAPISI Initiative as the Student Success project coordinator, and Cassandra Hanlin, who works with the Title IX Office. 

Vang is also an AFSA board member, but she said she came because she wanted to meet the students. Being from the Hmong community, Vang talked to students about balancing the pride of her Hmong identity while also combatting traditional ideals for women. 

She answered several students’ questions about how to overcome obstacles that come with being an Asian woman in the work environment. Vang understood what these students are going through because she was a student not that long ago, graduating from the Media, Communications and Journalism (MCJ) department in 2020. 

“The cultural component was really enlightening. I feel like there’s not a lot of spaces like this offered on campus,” she said. 

Hanlin, who goes by they/them pronouns, said the Title IX offices are trying to reach out and network more with students. They also said they learned a lot from the networking event. 

“I think one of the biggest takeaways from today is the overlap of female-presenting women in the workforce, especially from Asian [and] minority cultures, [that] that advocacy is so necessary. Learning those skills doesn’t happen alone… So passing down those skills is going to build a better future for our students,” they said. 

Dayeon Moon, who also goes by Luna, is the student coordinator for CCGC’s Asian Pacific Islander Programs and Services. She said it was a great experience because it’s hard to create connections with Asian faculty and staff members when it’s a sparse community on campus. 

Dayeon Moon (center), who also goes by Luna, is the student coordinator for CCGC’s Asian Pacific Islander Programs and Services. She’s giving out gifts for a raffle contest. (Manuel Hernandez/The Collegian)

“I’m an international transfer student, and I feel like sometimes I’m alone and apart from every other student. I feel like I can go ahead and have some bonds with other people and other Asian students. That emotional support is the thing I got from this event,” Luna said. 

She first enrolled as an American English Institute student, learning English at Fresno State, but now, she is a full-time sophomore student majoring in biology. 

Originally from Seoul, the capital of South Korea, Luna said she’s proud to see Asian representation and hopes events like these will lead to increased representation of Korean culture at Fresno State, which she said she doesn’t see a lot of. 

“Students teach you so much, so you put it in the back of your mind and think, ‘How am I going to serve my students knowing this information?’” Moua said. “I hope that when students feel heard from us, they know we have their backs.”

For students who missed the networking event, AFSA and CCGC plan to host another in the upcoming spring semester. More information can be found in the AFSA and CCGC websites. 

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