By Sophie Foster
Another student organization is joining Washington College’s lineup: Asian Culture Club will be returning to the campus after years of inactivity.
The club, which had its first meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 5, will be helmed by President freshman Jessica Kelso, Vice President freshman Tiyaba Jamil, Secretary sophomore Teddy Nies, Treasurer sophomore Jaya Basu, Director of Public Relations sophomore Andraya Sudler, and Faculty Advisor Associate Professor of Chinese Language Dr. David Hull.
According to Kelso, cultural, ethnic, and alliance groups are important aspects of the campus atmosphere, because they give students places to feel more wholly represented.
“For me, diversity was a big aspect of how I chose my colleges when applying, and I was really hopeful to hear about all the different groups on campus,” Kelso said. “After the club fair back during the beginning of the semester, I remember feeling extremely disappointed that there was no Asian Club, and the Chinese Culture Club that was advertised was no longer functioning. I hesitate to say that I felt alienated, but having other ethnic groups advertise their clubs and activities made me upset that there wasn’t a place where my culture was represented.”
For Kelso, coming from a predominantly white area means being desensitized to the feelings affiliated with being the only person who looks like her in photos and among friends.
However, according to Kelso, even in high school, she had a place to feel represented.
“For me, coming to college, where one’s worldview typically expands, and feeling that representation taken away really made me feel like an ‘other’ compared to other students I had met,” Kelso said.
Jamil had similar reasons for signing on to help lead and bolster the club’s success. According to Jamil, while she loves WC and feels the community is both welcoming and diverse, that is not always immediately evident to those considering the College from an outside perspective.
“Having different clubs and organizations such as the ACC on campus encourages people with different ethnic backgrounds and ways of life to apply to the College because then they know there is a place for them here,” Jamil said. “As for the people already at this campus, there is no better way to learn and expand knowledge and understanding of others than by having clubs that are formed for that very purpose.”
Nies echoed this sentiment.
“By creating this space, we’re hoping to present as many opportunities as possible to allow students to enjoy and take part in the exploration of Asian culture and celebrations, as well as to create a platform to amplify the voices of [WC’s] Asian students,” Nies said.
“Not only will this expose many students to experiences they might not have had before or without this club, but having clubs like ACC also provides a community for students with similar interests [or] experiences.”
The club will begin regular meetings and activities in the spring semester. In addition to general meetings, the club’s executive board hopes to host events spotlighting different holidays and cultural occasions, including Lunar New Year, dumpling making, calligraphy classes, henna night, and chai night.
According to Kelso, events like these will hopefully facilitate a shared improved understanding of the variety of cultures and traditions that can be found across the Asian continent. Additionally, it will uplift the voices of Asian students at WC to create a more representative space for them.
The ACC is open to any students interested in building appreciation for Asian culture, expanding cultural understandings, and establishing insights into areas of unfamiliarity, according to Nies.
Jamil added that membership in and engagement with the club will be flexible.
“The ACC will not be an extreme time commitment, and students can come and go to meetings and events as they please,” Jamil said. “Also, we wish for the club to be very interactive and engaging, so we would absolutely love suggestions from the College community.”
According to Kelso, this club will be a very crucial new element to the campus, and students should keep their eyes open for further updates as the academic year progresses.
“Overall, I feel that WC is pretty conscious of representation and equality, but knowing about a culture and experiencing it are two different things,” Kelso said. “We as a community can’t accurately consider the experiences of minority groups without having their voices amplified, and I think it’s important that we take the steps to amplify these voices instead of preaching representation without practicing awareness and understanding.”