Name: Gloria Leung
Major: Business Administration (concentration in Entrepreneurship)
Minor: Nonprofits, Philanthropy, and Volunteerism
Hometown: Oviedo, FL
Explain in detail your involvement in the Asian Pacific American community on and off campus.
I’m involved directly and indirectly in the APA community in a variety of roles. I’m involved directly in the APA community through APASS as a PEER Mentor, Connections Mentee, Student Welcome Advisor (SWA), and I also participated in Alternative Spring Break Hawaii last year. On the other hand, I enjoy advocating for the APA community through indirect outlets too. I founded STAND (Students Taking Action in the Name of Diversity) as a student organization that focuses on training peer facilitators to put on diversity workshops about the “big 7” – socioeconomic class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and ability/disability – as well as other topics. STAND’s mission is to generate diversity awareness in spaces that do not traditionally focus on diversity or intersections, and we have done a lot of work in the Greek community and with Residential Education. In addition to STAND, I’m also active in the queer community through serving as a LGBT peer mentor, LGBT Speakers’ Bureau speaker, Out for Undergrad Campus Ambassador, and previous e-board member for QuASA. I particularly enjoy advocating for queer persons of color through my own experience of being APA and queer. Finally, I like to tie everything together as a Resident Assistant, where I hope to engage my residents through programming and personal conversations to develop their own passion for diversity and social justice issues.
What’s your personal story? How did you first get involved with the Asian Pacific American community?
I grew up in a small, primarily white, primarily middle-class town in Central Florida as a low-income, 1st generation Chinese-American, queer woman. I had been teased growing up for my racial identity, and later on, bullied for coming out as lesbian in high school. I chose USC (in addition to financial aid) to escape to the West Coast, where I thought people may be more open-minded. At USC, I was immediately surrounded by diversity, and consequently, I learned much more about myself through my school involvement. My first year, I became highly involved with the LGBTQ community through FAB and QuASA. Over time, as I became more and more involved with QuASA and Students Taking Action in the Name of Diversity (STAND), my passion for outreach and empowerment through diversity issues grew. My junior year, I built up the courage to explore my APA identity, something that, frankly, had always scared me. Growing up being teased, my APA identity was not something of which I was proud, especially because I also believed the APA community would not accept me for suffering from mental illness and being queer. However, I was definitely wrong. The USC APA community welcomed me with open arms and pushed me to expand my understanding of APA issues. Now, I am hungry for more change in every sphere. I feel that social justice issues have allowed me to grow as a person and find truly meaningful interests.
What does being Asian Pacific American mean to you?
Being Asian Pacific American means resilience and discipline to me. My APA identity means I am a part of rich, cultural Chinese traditions to share with the other nation that holds my heart – America. It means that I’ve been forced to understand the majority culture, but I will remain proud and open to sharing my minority culture as well. My APA identity means that I have been hypersexualized and subject to harassment and assault (in a large way, connected to being an APA woman), but I play a key role in advocating for change. It means that I understand that true feminism is intersectional. My APA identity means that due to our culture, my parents and relatives may never truly understand how being out and able to love who I fall in love with makes me feel happy and free. It means that I must think strategically about how I reveal my queer identity in Asia, where LGBT rights are often more behind, but I will never forget who I am. My APA identity means that I will always find support in a community tied together by common themes, and I will not only stand in solidarity with them, but fight alongside them for what we believe in together.
What advice do you have for aspiring Asian Pacific American leaders?
1. Get a leadership position in a club. Start early – executive board is a good place. Always look for more responsibility and ways that you can advance. If you’re so inclined, start your own club. Even if you don’t think you can handle it, you can, and you will. USC has tons of resources to make it happen and people to support you when you go for it.
2. Know and use your resources, especially other people. Make sure you’re familiar with all of what the different resource centers have to offer, including APASS, LGBT Resource Center, Career Center, etc. Most importantly, find mentors through informal, info interviews. They can be students, professors, working professionals, etc. They won’t know all of the answers, but they can definitely give you a different perspective as well as a support system.
3. Just jump in and do your best. I loved my past three internships for my personal interests, but I’m sure that I would have been fine with any of the other offers I had too. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter where you do an internship as long as you make the most of it, by taking on extra responsibilities and learning and growing from it. What skills and functions do you enjoy that will contribute to you growth and are applicable across industries?
4. Take care of you first, and then take care of others. This is my personal philosophy. Having suffered from mental illness for a long time, I cannot stress to you the importance of health first. You may be able to tradeoff your health (less sleep, more stress, etc. for those midterms and what not) in the short run, but it WILL slow you down and force you to function at a lower level in the long run. You can’t help others or advance your cause without you first being at the top of your game. So ask for help and take some time to figure you out. In fact, the process never really ends.
What motivates and inspires you?
Every day at USC, I am inspired by the beauty and resilience of the human spirit to adapt in the face of tough challenges. For me in my various roles, one of the greatest honors of being a Trojan is being able to provide critical support to all members of the Trojan family. In one situation, Bruce* was an acquaintance who chose to trust and confide in me when he discovered I was a Resident Advisor. He told me that his depression led him to consider taking his own life. My heart immediately went out to him, but I set boundaries as a mentor and found other sources of support for him. Ultimately, he triumphed, and now I am able to witness his leadership development while tackling various social issues. In another situation, I met Beth* at an event, and through casual conversation, she discovered that I identify as a lesbian. Though she had been a stranger just beforehand, she asked to meet with me privately, because she was questioning her sexuality. She later told me she felt disgusted with herself and all alone, but she felt safe in talking to me. Although she is still closeted to most, I see her making progress in the few LGBT events she attends, and I couldn’t be more proud. These two situations are part of a collection that makes me proud to be a Trojan – to rejoice in the successes of my peers and support them in their darkest hours, as I know they would do for me. My peers come from a variety of backgrounds, and they are strong. They will fight on, and so will I.
*Names have been changed in order to preserve anonymity.
Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten?
10 years from now, I see myself taking a lovely stroll through a park during my lunch break. I’m in a black, tailored suit, and I’m thinking deeply about how to solve many of the systemic issues that plague our public schools – high teacher turnover, high student dropout rates, high lack of accountability amongst staff – and create a culture of success instead. I’m recapping what I’ve already done in the morning – respond to a variety of emails, phone calls, and meetings with state/district education officials and nonprofit leaders. I’m also contemplating my schedule for the remainder of the day, which includes travel to meet with different school administrators and principals at our lowest-performing schools in the region. Backtrack to 5 years from now, I’ll be starting as a school administrator/principal after finishing my second master’s degree in education. In both roles, I’m always challenged and always passionate about the work I’m doing. I work with a variety of talented, passionate, and ambitious individuals who all aim to do even better. I’m working to ensure that every child, regardless of socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, etc., has access to a great education and the opportunities that come with it.
Describe your dream date.
I’d like to preface this by saying that my dream date is totally doable with little $$ required, if only the right girl sees this, haha…After getting dressed up, my date would pick me up at my home to drive to the theater in downtown where American Ballet Theatre (or another famous ballet company) was performing that night. Then, we would sneakily buy student rush tickets together with our fake, printed class schedules and old student IDs (so much cheaper). In the hour or so we had in between before the show began, we would Yelp the nearest coffee shop to drink espresso – extra points if they decorate the milk foam in a latte in cute shapes. Then, we would walk back to the theater to see the show. I would whisper excitedly and/or squeeze her hand every time the dancers accomplished an impressive feat, and my antics wouldn’t annoy my date. Afterwards, she would take me to eat Asian food at a new, hole-in-the-wall place I hadn’t tried before, preferably sushi or Japanese curry (not too messy). Afterwards, we’d drive to (if we were already there) or teleport to (okay, this might cost $$) Florida to walk around the beach at night where you can actually see the stars and the water is warm. She would inspire me as we talked about our goals and ambitions. Finally, she would take her guitar with her, and I’d fall asleep on her lap while she sang and played a song for me (other artistic endeavors work here too).
Anything else you would like to add – shoutouts, thanks to anyone for support/encouragement, etc.?
Shoutouts to APASS and all of the wonderful people I’ve met through the center for helping me first get involved with the APA community. And shoutouts to the great people at APASA for this opportunity – I can’t wait to meet more APA leaders in the future!