UTC Student Organization Participates in Chattanooga Library Festival


A young student organization at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is already making its mark on campus and in the community.

In November 2021, the Asian Student Association was launched to provide a network for Asian students and their friends interested in learning more about diverse cultures.

The organization was founded by Emma Sprayberry, an Innovations in Honors student pursuing a degree in Humanities: International Studies with a major in Asian Studies.

On Saturday, members of the Asian Student Association will serve as volunteers for the Chattanooga Public Library’s Holi Festival in Coolidge Park.

The event is part of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a celebration recognizing the contributions and influence of Asian American and Pacific Islander people in the history, the culture and achievements of the United States.

“Our goal is to foster a community for students of Asian descent in case they want to have a community where they can come and do activities with people who can understand their cultural background,” said Sprayberry, who is originally from Chinese.

“ASA is also open to any student; it is not only for Asian students. And it’s for anyone interested in Asian culture.

According to data provided by UTC’s Office of Institutional Planning, Evaluation and Research, as of the 2021-2022 academic year, the University officially had 377 students (318 undergraduates and 59 graduates) and 85 faculty (68 full-time and 17 part-time) identifying as Asian, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander.

Sprayberry, the ASA’s first president, is set to graduate in December 2023. She spent last summer studying in South Korea on a State Department Benjamin A. Gilman International Fellowship American and a Freeman-ASIA Fellowship.

“After I returned from studying abroad in Korea, I missed being surrounded by a community of people who looked like me or shared similar interests,” said Sprayberry, who grew up near Rossville, in Georgia,” so I considered starting a student organization. .

“I reached out to the few Asian people I knew who might be interested in joining, and Emily was one of them.”

The Emily she was referring to was Emily Williams, a young psychology student from Spring Hill, Tennessee.

“Not all cultures in Asia are the same, and it’s good to show different sides of your culture,” said Williams, also of Chinese descent, who serves as the organization’s secretary.

“I don’t remember if Asian associations were present at UTC in previous years,” she continued, “but it’s nice to now be part of a community of people who share common interests.

“AAPI Month is a great way to celebrate that.”

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is a May celebration recognizing the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to the history, culture and achievements of the United States.

According to the Library of Congress, the month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States (May 7, 1843) and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad (May 10, 1869) . The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.

Since most UTC students return home after final exams, many things happened throughout the month of April.

The ASA helped organize a meeting on Asian arts and a panel of Asian professionals in academia. The organization also helped promote the UTC Center for Global Education’s Global Spotlight: Japan event.

“It means a lot that UTC is celebrating AAPI Heritage Month and the Asian community,” said Sprayberry. “I remember when I was a freshman and I was like, ‘There’s no representation for me on campus or anything. I felt kind of left out of a lot of things.

“But this year it’s very different.”

ASA has helped international students acclimatize to UTC, including hosting a game night at the Guerry Center with Japanese students from JF Oberlin University in Tokyo. Photo provided by Suhani Patel.

ASA has helped international students acclimatize to UTC, including hosting a game night at the Guerry Center with Japanese students from JF Oberlin University in Tokyo. Photo provided by Suhani Patel.

On Saturday, April 30, ASA members will volunteer for the Chattanooga Public Library’s Holi Festival in Coolidge Park.

“Holi is a Hindu festival, popularly known as a festival of colors,” explained Suhani Patel, ASA’s social media manager. “There is a kind of color war that represents good against evil and the triumph of good. Basically, everyone is wearing light colored clothes and you are throwing colors at each other. It’s just a big party.

Patel, a sophomore in biology at Hixson, acknowledged that when it comes to thinking about Asian Americans, people of Indian descent don’t come high on the list.

“I have a lot of people saying to me, ‘Oh, are you Asian? Patel said.

“That’s the thing with this club; there are many countries and many cultures. And we try to show that there is a lot of diversity. It gives us a voice and gives us control over how we are portrayed.

The student group has also played a pivotal role in acclimating international students to campus.

This semester, 13 Japanese undergraduate students from JF Oberlin University, a four-year private institution in the Tokyo suburb of Machida, are among 26 international students attending UTC English as a Second Language Institute.

Patel said the Japanese students showed up at one of the ASA events, “and we just became friends with them and encouraged them to come to more events. It allowed them to practice their English , to discover American culture and to acquire the experience of an American university.

“It also allowed us to learn from them,” she continued. “They taught us so much more about Japan than we could learn from a book or YouTube videos.”

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