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ECAASU Conference is coming to UMASS

In less than three months the University of Massachusetts Amherst will be hosting the East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) Conference.

From February 18th-20th, 2011 there will be a series of workshops, performances, and networking opportunities for students within and beyond the Asian American community. With the theme B.R.E.A.K., an acronym for Bridge, Revitalize, Equality, Action, and Knowledge this conference isn't just for UMass, it is a 5-College collaboration.

Few state schools host the conference as it is more likely to go to an Ivy League school because they have plenty of resources. Winning the bid was a proud moment for UMass students. In the last 10 years the ECAASU conference has become increasingly popular despite the slow start in its beginning stages. Kevin Pouv, senior at UMass and the logistics chair of the ECAASU planning committee and one of the Executive Directors, said, “We want to keep the momentum going”.

The Big Bid
Asian American students from the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) who attended the 2010 ECAASU conference at UPenn created a bid for UMass to be the next host for 2011. Weeks after posting the bid to ECAASU National, they found out that they won against schools such as Emory and the University of Florida.

Winning the bid was not an easy task according to Judy Lei, a senior from Smith College and co-direct, who initially wanted to place a bid at her college but “nobody at my school wanted to do it with me and [they] thought I was crazy,” she said.

As a member of the 5-College Pan Asian Network, Lei had the opportunity to collaborate with UMass students such as Tiffany Yee, Christine Lam, Mia Lian and Mary Neov who were interested in bringing ECAASU to UMass. With the efforts of these four students and help from another student a proposal was submitted after a series of about five meetings.

“We then had to defend our proposal to the ECAASU National through a video conference, and ECAASU National also called me individually to see how willing I am to listen to constructive criticism as well as how I handle questions under immense pressure.” Lei said

Soon after students such as Lei, Neov and Sydney Hanaoka jump started the executive board committee. They began to spread the word throughout the Asian American Community and held meetings to develop a stable executive board committee, which was determined by the end of spring 2010 semester.

What ECAASU means to students
For some students, planning for the conference is a chance to really get involved with the Asian community as a whole. This is especially the case for Pouv who never considered himself heavily involved in the Asian community on the UMass campus. “Not that I didn’t want to … I was just busy” he said. This was because he had several other leadership commitments such as the Cambodian Student Organization, Orchard Hill Area Government (OHAG), People’s Market and the co-ed community service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega. He fortunately now has time to focus primarily on ECAASU planning and the ALANA community by working for CMASS.

This conference also has the potential to benefit the students that attend. Lei, was at the 2010 conference at the University of Pennsylvania, thinks that “ECAASU is important to APA students because Asian Americans are constantly left out of the racial dichotomy. By being left out, ECAASU act as a space where Asian Pacific Americans meet with each other to facilitate dialogues about our racial identity in our respective campuses and our country. Although this conference is seen as a social networking ground for many, this year, we are trying to remind students why the APA political movement happened and why it is still relevant today.”

Putting it all together
The planning committee consists of several students from the 5-College Consortium. These students lead certain aspects of planning such as: Logistics lead by Kevin Pouv, Marketing by Pam, Finance by Tiffany Tseng, Registration by Peter Cai, Programming by Aileen Wang, Entertainment by Mike Yo, and the After Party by John. These committees are overseen by Lei, Neov and Liu-Hanaoka and each committee consists of a group of several students within the Asian community who are willing to help out and coordinate this conference for February.

There has also been a great amount of help from other RSO's and administration here at UMass. As Pouv said, “It’s amazing how supportive other RSO’s have been… People have been coming out of the wood works.” The planning conference has also given a unifying factor to Asian- American based cultural RSO's that hasn't been available in the past.

The students planning board, however, are still in need of help and support from the overall UMass community. As Pouv described, “Learning to get through the UMass system is a feat onto itself”. Since the planning committee technically isn't an RSO it has been hard trying to find space for workshops as well as the after party itself. Anyone looking for updates on the conference or want to get involved can check out the official ECAASU 2011 Conference website (http://www.ecaasu2011.org/) and Facebook group (http://www.facebook.com/pages/ECAASU-2011-at-UMASS-Amherst/119661764727508).

By Netha Gill
Spotlight Reporter and Events Editor