Association of Asian Americans and the Pacific Islands – Crow’s Nest at USF St. Petersburg

Pictured above: AAPIA members and officers pose for a photo during an event hosted by the Chinese Culture and Language Club on the Tampa campus.

Courtesy of @aapia_usfsp on Instagram

By Michelle Pham

Sometimes it is difficult to find other students to relate to if you are a minority. This is why the Asian American and Pacific Islander Association (AAPIA) was founded.

The club was formed this fall for Asian students to come together and celebrate their different cultures.

For some members, this is the first time they have been part of a club like AAPIA.

Freshman year in psychology and vice president Jasmine Tran said the club comforted her.

“I wanted to find a minority group that would match my identity,” Tran said. “Living in a predominantly white school really amplifies the fact that I’m a minority. ”

Club president and first-year environmental science and policy student Kristen Gayos had a similar response as to why the club was created.

“Living in a predominantly white community, we felt it was important to have a safe space on campus where people identifying AAPI could meet,” Gayos said.

Gayos said the club differs from student organizations similar to USF because of the club’s inclusion around multiple Asian cultures, rather than having one for each country.

The AAPIA also stands out on campus for its relative novelty.

“Our organization differs from others on our campus due to our recent development,” Gayos said. “It was founded in the first week of the fall semester.”

Founded on the basis of the Inactive South Asian Campus Association, AAPIA aims to “reorganize” as a more inclusive organization than the previous one.

According to the club’s mission on BullsConnect, AAPIA “is dedicated to federating, encouraging, inspiring, and uplifting the student body by creating an environment that will cultivate a vision of a campus that embraces Asian culture, ”as well as providing a“ safe space for the Asian community through intentional programs and experiences ”.

AAPIA members (top, left to right) Kristyn Gayos, Romeo Cauthen, Kate Froozan, (bottom, left to right) Jasmine Tran, Mika William and Aubrey Houdtzagers represent the club at the Bull Market to promote the organization and upcoming events. Courtesy of @lso_usf on Instagram.

Despite the small Asian population on the St. Petersburg campus, members hope it will attract more students.

Mika William, first year international studies student and coordinator of AAPIA activities, also stressed the importance of the club despite a small Asian population on campus.

“Our campus being as small as it is, the number of Asian students we have is not the greatest,” said William. “However, it ended up being a blessing for us because rather than dividing ourselves further into sub-groups, we can all come together, on the common ground of all with Asian heritage, and share our unique cultures and experiences with others. ‘other students similar to us… allowing us to learn and celebrate the cultures of our colleagues.

Although it was created to serve Asian students, the club welcomes anyone interested in learning more about Asian cultures.

“We are all working to embrace our cultures and welcome everyone,” Gayos said when asked if any non-Asian members are joining us.

On September 30, the club hosted a movie night at the Multicultural Affairs Office where members watched “Howl’s Moving Castle”. In addition to other movie nights, the club plans to host a number of other events that celebrate Asian and Pacific Islander cultures, such as a fashion show showcasing different clothes and styles from various Asian cultures as well as an event celebrating the Lunar New Year.

William plans to ensure that future events are a place of inclusion and support for his members in the aftermath of COVID-19.

“This group not only gave us a place to come together, but created a forum to discuss the struggles that we as Asian Americans are facing with the major shift in society’s perception of us,” said William. “We are planning group meetings in the future where we will educate others and give a space for Asian students to discuss the discrimination they suffered before and after the wave of racism the pandemic has brought against us.”

AAPIA meetings take place every second and fourth Thursday of the month at 4:00 pm at SLC 1400. For more information about the club visit their page on BullsConnect or their Instagram page @aapia_usfsp.

Michelle Pham is a first year marine biology student at USF St. Petersburg.

Molly Ryan contributed to this report.

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