Originally published January 1, 2020.
The Asian-Pacific American Student Union (APASU) hosted its annual Multicultural Night on Nov. 14th. Cultural organizations such as the Filipino-American Student Association (FASA), the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA), the Japanse-American Student Association (JASA), The Chinese Culture and Language Club (CCLC), Caribso, an organization for Caribbean students, and the Latino Student Association (LSA) came together to celebrate ODU’s diverse campus.
The event had their tables where they explained their organization, as well as performances by all these organizations and serving traditional foods from all cultures.
Around 200 people attended the event Thursday evening at the Quad, making this one of the biggest held events of the year. The majority attended were Asians, as well as a melting pot of Latinos, African-Americans and Whites.
“These types of events bring students together. It also helps de-stress before finals,” said Jordan Smith, junior, president of JASA. Though Jordan is not of Japanese descent, he had always been fond of the Japanese culture throughout high school, “I was already a part of a Japanese organization in high school, and so I wanted to learn more about the Japanese culture in college.”
Photo Courtesy of Devin Diaz | ODU FASA’s Table Booth. From left to right, Jordan Whitaker and Destiny Sage
Many ODU students commented on the significance of multicultural night as embracing their culture with so many clubs and organizations.
Mindy Medrana, third year Filipino student, explained why she joined ODU FASA, “To be honest, I didn’t feel fully Asian-American before I came here, because I came from a predominantly white high school. So, when I joined ODU FASA and different organizations offered, it gave me opportunities to embrace and take pride in my culture [and heritage].”
Sophia Marie Porter, freshman, being mixed-raced of half-Filipina, half-White and Pacific Islander says her cultural experience here on campus has been fun and exciting. “People here are understanding, as I came from a predominantly white school before college.” Since Porter recently won Miss Cultural 2019, which is a Norfolk cultural pageant that brings awareness of the diversity in the Hampton Roads area.
Porter plans to use her title to educate others not just on campus, but also in the Hampton Roads area. Porter explained, “I would use my title to promote cultural events at school that spread and supports [sic] positive messages of diversity and cooperation amongst different groups.” In regards to using her platform for the multicultural night, Porter also included, “With the other clubs knowing my title, I want to assist in the future with their own events for ODU.”
As diverse as ODU’s student population is, Asian-Americans make up four percent of the population. When asked about the main concern regarding the lack of Asian representation around campus, APASU’s President/Director, Paul “PJ” Martin said, “We’re trying to have more of an outside presence that there is an Asian population here. Martin also included, “I think because the [Asian] student population is so small, that [the university] tend to brush us aside.”
In addition to the small Asian population, another big concern is initiating more APASU-hosted events similar to Multicultural Night by the university. APASU’s co-President, Tien Pham explained the importance of Asian recognition by the university and urges change.
Pham emphasized, “ODU does a good job with representing our cultures, but it’s nearly not enough. It’s also up to the organizations also. If we don’t do anything about it, then ODU doesn’t recognize that we want anything done. Why would they want to represent anybody who doesn’t want to be represented?” Pham also included, “I feel like this year we’re doing really well to actually make the forefront.”
Aside from the small percentage of Asians and wanting representation by the university, when asked about challenges that APASU faces while having many cultures combined into one organization, Martin explained, “Because we’re so broad, there isn’t one specific culture for any organization here.”
Phan added, “Coming from an outsider [Non-Asian] standpoint, they see APASU and see we don’t specifically pertain to one culture. So, they’re more inclined to join because they’re just exposed to all different types and so it can get really overwhelming.”
A high amount of optimism is within the future of APASU and the Asian population thriving to be greatly recognized on campus. When asked about how APASU is attracting more Asian students to join, Pham said, “That’s something that we ask ourselves all the time, especially with our member retention or getting new members to join.”
Pham also included, “I think on our end, [sic] that the more we reach out to people from Hampton Roads–and not just in this bubble of ODU that we live–The more people that we reach out to, the more that the people know that there is a presence here, so that way they’d be more excited to come.”