The Asian Student Association at St. Thomas University was officially ratified by the STU Students’ Union last week. The idea for the ASA came to founder Sydona Chandon in her living room when talking to Manvi Walter, another founding member and the president of the organization.
Both are already members of student government at STU. Chandon, a third-year student from Jamaica, is vice-president of the Black Student Association, on the board of the STU International Students’ Association and next year’s STUSU vice-president education. Walter, a second-year student from India, was recently elected next year’s social inclusion representative for STUSU.
One day in January 2020, they were talking about their current projects with STU and what they wanted to see in the future.
“We were discussing the lack of representation in terms of an association that would provide a platform for Asian students’ needs and concerns,” said Chandon, who is half-Black and half-Indian.
She suggested creating an Asian Student Association and Walter agreed. Over the next few months, they started planning out the club and its structure. Chandon brought her experience from the BSA, showing Walter how an association at STU works.
“I encouraged Walter to take the lead as president because I trusted her ability to develop and serve the association,” said Chandon.
After meeting with Vietnamese student Alex Nguyen, the international student representative on STUSU, and seeing her passion for advocacy work, Chandon and Walter offered her the position of vice-president.
“We want to have an association where Asian students, as well as other students, can join, learn about each other’s culture and promote diversity at STU,” said Nguyen. “It’s important to have representation as well, as we all know the Asian community is growing every day.”
She said the group’s first initiative is to have a full executive board, which will require finding a secretary, treasurer and communications officer. They plan to partner with groups like the BSA and STUISA for Project Solidarity, a social media series they’re planning for this summer to remove misconceptions and stereotypes around the Asian community.
Walter wants to collaborate with Asian businesses to give them the recognition they deserve in the future.
“In the first year of running the association we want it to run smoothly and not burden it with a lot of things,” said Walter. “But at the same time, we’ll make sure that we cover everything and nothing is left out.”
Walter is looking forward to working with her fellow ASA board members and other clubs at STU.
“Even just helping a student out,” said Walter. “If they want to reach out to us, being able to aid them or giving them a sense of security. I’m here.”
The association plans to post on their social media accounts through April to let people know how they can join. Their email account is also open to students who want to reach out.
Chandon said the group will provide a voice for Asian students on campus.
“I want to see that continue to develop and in terms of things like intersectionality and removing certain boundaries,” said Chandon. “It’s important for us to continue to raise awareness and to contribute to that.”