Hey everyone, hope finals week has been treating you all well! Last but not least, we are proud to present our sixth and final APA Leader for 2017, Amy Chau! Amy has been heavily involved in APASA as an intern, Events Coordinator, and External Community Chair. She is also involved as an Event Coordinator for SCAPE, an active member in VSA and an APAA scholar. Read her interview below to learn more!
APA Leaders Questions
Name: Amy Chau
Major: Business Administration, Pre-Law, Minor in Law & Society Year: Senior, Class of 2017
What does being APA mean to you?
When I was a freshman, I interviewed for an internship with APASA because I was eager to become a leader on campus. But despite the diversity of the San Diego neighborhood I grew up in, the APA students in my schools lacked a strong sense of community, and my environment didn’t really shape my understanding of what it meant to be APA. At the time, “APA” was a label based only on my physical appearance. So you can imagine my discomfort when, during my internship interview, my interviewers (Hi, Mighten and Howard!) asked me, “What does being APA mean to you?”
After thinking about the question, I admitted honestly, “I can’t answer that. I’m sorry.” I can barely remember the rest of the interview, only that I felt extremely embarrassed. It was so silly for me to call myself Asian Pacific American if I couldn’t even explain what that meant to me. Now, as a senior on the verge of graduation, I’m so proud of everything I’ve learned and discovered about being APA.
“APA” is more than a label for the way I look or an indication of where my parents were born. Being APA means being part of a community with a rich history of oppression and strength, embodied by the lessons of powerful figures like Yuri Kochiyama and Larry Itliong. Being APA means sometimes having to reconcile two conflicting identities— the Asian and American aspects of ourselves— while fighting to establish our own narratives in a country that paints us as model minorities with one broad brush and building bridges with other communities of color.
Explain in detail your involvement in the Asian Pacific American community on and off campus.
I was a part of APASA for 3 years— as an intern my freshman year, as Events Coordinator my sophomore year, and as External Community Chair my junior year. As Events Coordinator, I spearheaded the planning and execution of APASA Night Market, which was modeled after a traditional Taiwanese Night Market. We had many of our student organizations, as well as community organizations such as Asian Americans Advancing Justice- LA tabling, as well as performances, food, and games for students.
I was also in charge of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Festival (APAHF), which was a two- month long series of events in the spring semester meant to facilitate awareness of culture and social issues. My theme, “Building Bridges”, was a reminder that, while everyone is unique and faces their own personal struggles, supporting and seeking support from one another is important. Everyone is different, but that does not necessarily mean that we have to fight our battles alone. Reaching out and helping those in other communities helps us become stronger.
There were over 20 APAHF events that year, including APA Leaders, during which we highlighted and recognized outstanding APA students on campus and their contributions to our community, for our signature speaker event, I invited Michelle Kwan to Bovard Auditorium to speak about her experience as an Olympian and the impact her API identity had on her career.
As External Community Chair, I was tasked with being the liaison between USC students at the greater Los Angeles community. I implemented monthly Community Spotlights, during which I brought a local community organization to our assembly meetings to share with us their mission and vision. I coordinated volunteer opportunities to bring USC students out to a community event hosted by these organizations in order to provide hands-on experiences with community work, working with organizations such as Asian Americans Advancing Justice and Chinatown Community for Equitable Development. I also worked with my Executive Director, Lorna Xu, to create the first APA Lecture Series, which was an engaging series of luncheons with USC's most distinguished professors for a glimpse into various aspects of Asian American culture.
I was an intern with the Student Coalition for Asian Pacific Empowerment (SCAPE), an APASA member organization, during my freshman year, and as a senior now serve on the Executive Board as the Events Coordinator. SCAPE is a bit more social justice-oriented than APASA is. Within SCAPE, we’ve put on an Open Mic Series, during which we allowed students and individuals from the community to showcase their artistic talents through music, spoken word poetry, and other forms of art. As Events Coordinator of SCAPE, I was in charge of InspirASIAN, which is SCAPE’s highlight event connecting USC students with API leaders doing incredible creative work in their communities. InspirASIAN is our way of showcasing API work in the greater LA community by bringing in leaders to share their experiences and how their identities have influenced their work.
I’ve also been an Asian Pacific Alumni Association (APAA) scholar, as well as a member of the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA), since my sophomore year. As a scholar, I’ve volunteered with fellow Trojans at community events. As a VSA member, I am in the Anh Chi Em mentorship program and was a part of the Girl’s Traditional Dance Team in this year’s Vietnamese Culture Night.
What advice do you have for aspiring APA leaders?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. For a lot of APA students, coming to USC is their first experience being with a large community of APA students. That was definitely the case for me. What really allowed me to learn so much about the APA community was my desire to learn. Somehow, after my mortifying interview, I was invited to join APASA’s intern class of 2013- 2014. After joining APASA, I became determined to learn more about my cultural identity and focus on learning how to implement meaningful, intentional, and educational programming for other students looking to cultivate their APA identities. Along the way, there were so many things I didn’t understand, and if it wasn’t for my incredible mentors Gloria, Alison, Andy, and Angie, I would probably still be lost. If there’s anything I’ve learned in my time here at USC, it’s that those who are more experienced and knowledgeable are typically more than willing to offer their wisdom and insight— all you need to do is ask!
What kind of legacy do you want to leave at USC?
During my freshman year here at USC, I remember sitting down to speak with one of my upperclassmen friends, Kevin, to ask for advice. I felt so anxious, mainly because I never felt comfortable asking for help and was always self-conscious of taking up another person’s time. Afterward, he shared with me that he had been speaking and meeting with several other underclassmen and mentees to provide them with advice as well. I asked him, amazed, why he was so generous with his time, why he was so willing to put in the effort to help younger, less experienced students when the utility that he received was so minimal. He told me, “Because I was in your shoes a couple of years ago, and I had someone to help me out. So now, I’m just paying it forward.”
That simple answer really influenced my experience here at USC in that I was determined to always pay it forward as well. As a senior, looking back on my time here at USC, I want to leave behind the legacy my mentors have left behind. I not only want to be a resource for underclassmen, someone they can go to for guidance, but also someone who inspires them to give back to others and to continue to pay forward the support and guidance they received from the Trojans who came before them.
What story do you think every APA should know?
The story of Vincent Chin. Vincent Chin’s murder, a hate crime, was one of the most tragic events in Asian American history. It’s still difficult for me to think about Chin’s story without tearing up at the injustice he experienced. Chin was a Chinese American man who, during his bachelor party the night before his wedding, was targeted by two white men and beaten. Although Chin was Chinese American, the men mistakened him for being Japanese and blamed him in part or the layoffs that plagued the city’s auto industry. He later died after being in a coma
for four days. Vincent Chin’s case is often cited as one of the first instances that ignited activism in the Asian American community, and it’s a story that I think is extremely important for all APA individuals to know.
If you could meet anyone from the past, the present, or the future, who would you want to meet and why?
I always make this question into a dinner party because if I had this kind of power, why not abuse it and invite more than one person?
Hua Mulan (from The Ballad of Mulan): The original childhood hero. A young woman, headstrong, brave. She was willing to sacrifice everything to protect something she loved and believed in— her family and her country.
J.K. Rowling: My other childhood hero. Also the author responsible for my love of stories and dream of one day becoming a best-selling novelist. She’s able to weave words in ways that draw readers in and cause them to get lost in her intricately-design worlds. My favorite quote from her: “I would like to be remembered as someone who did the best she could with the talent she had.”
If you could give a Ted Talk, what would it be about?
I would talk about the importance of having a sense of wonder, of allowing yourself to notice and be inspired by the little things in life. I feel like a lot of people today are extremely cynical or unfazed about things that should make them happy or curious or amazed. And this disillusionment is usually a consequence of growing older. I don’t think it’s impossible to maintain your sense of wonder as you age— rather, it’s something that you just need to actively work to keep. It can be difficult at first, but having this sort of unique perspective on the world and allowing yourself to be easily inspired can allow you to inspire others with your optimism and enthusiasm for life.
I also wanted to quickly plug these two TED Talks that I absolutely love:
Is there anyone you would like to give a shout-out to?
My family: To my parents— I wouldn’t be the person I am today without you constantly challenging me to learn and grow or without your encouragement and support. It might not seem like it because I’m a really stubborn child, but pretty much everything I do— academically and professionally— I do with the intent to make you proud. Ashley and Brandon, I want you to know that I’m super, super proud of the both of you. I’m going to miss you all so much from DC, but I know that I’ll still be able to feel your love all the way on the other side of the country. I hope I’ve made you proud, and I intend to continue making you proud.
My MUGA Fam: For being one of the few constants throughout my undergraduate career— from Welcome Week during freshman year to the last day of finals senior year. It’s been such a pleasure to have been a part of such an amazing staff, without whom Marshall really would not be able to function. To my interns— I love you all! Thanks so much for being the dream team and especially for putting up with my dumb jokes (I’m really funny, okay?).
Pardee Platter: For always pushing me to explore outside of my comfort zone. I’m never more comfortable being myself than when I’m with you. Thanks for taking that weird anti-social freshman who slept wayyy too early under your wing and giving her a home.
SM Crew: For always being there for me when I need someone to talk to or laugh with. The fact that we still talk, exchange stories, laugh together, and visit one another makes me so happy. These friendships are friendships I want to keep for the rest of my life.
APASA Fam: There really are no words to describe how grateful I am for APASA. This organization, and the people in it, have played a huge role in shaping the person I am today. I will always love APASA, the amazing things it’s able to accomplish, and the people who bring it to life. Special shout-outs to Gloria and Alison, the OG APASA legends, and to Kevin and Kei- Lwun, the Eboarders I shadowed as an intern. Shout-out to Aseem, who’s been my bestie since day one. Shout-out to Tedison and Justin, who are like the big brothers I’ve never had. And finally, shout-out to Haneul and Michelle, my APASA “little” and “grandlittle”. Y’all make me proud.
SCAPE Fam: For all of your commitment to our organization and what we stand for. I’m so proud to have been part of this Eboard my senior year! It was so much fun working with such an amazing group of individuals who are motivated to offer meaningful programming.
VSA Fam: For being oh-so sweet. Thank you for all of your enthusiasm and positivity— with you, I always feel welcome.
APASS Fam: Jonathan and Queena, your dedication to the APA community here at USC, and your eternal support and encouragement to all of the students here, is inspiring. Thank you for everything you’ve done for us!
Mentors/Idols/Bigs: Gloria, Alison, Angie, Kevin, Jennie, Kei-Lwun, Christine, Lorna, Andy— I miss you all so much, but I want you to know just how much I appreciate your love and support, and how much I’ve looked up to you throughout my undergraduate career. Thank you all for inspiring me with your hard work, dedication, and kindness.
Littles/Mentees/Interns: Mina, Ashley, Emily, Winnie, Haneul, Michelle, Carolyn, Annie, Catalina, Natasha— it’s been such a pleasure being your big/mentor. I’ve really loved being able to see you grow throughout your time here at USC, and I can’t wait to see where the future takes you! Just know that, no matter how long it’s been since I’ve graduated, I’ll always be your big/mentor and you can always reach out to me for support and guidance!
Thanks again Amy for taking the time out of finals week for the interview and photoshoot! And with that, it’s a wrap! Thank you to everyone who read any of the interviews. Thank you to all the APA Leaders for what you do in the community. Special shout out to APASA’s Historian, Austin Chee, for taking so much time and effort in taking and editing all the photos of our APA Leaders.