At Five, Some Gains and Growing Pains

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Five years after Pan Asian American Community House (PAACH) opened as a center for Asian American students, its members gathered in Houston Hall on Homecoming Weekend to celebrate its successes, critique its shortcomings, and revive the memory university organizations tend to lose every four years. Headlined by Asian American Pacific Heritage Week, PAACH’s activities also include leadership training, peer mentoring, tutoring for elementary and high schools, and providing resources such as a conference room and library.

While acknowledging all that has been done—“We like to think that PAACH made Penn a little less scary,” said Director Dr. June Y. Chu—the banquet’s speeches focused on bridging past and present, with alumni reminding students not to forget their history and students asking alumni to keep current needs in mind.

“I worry if students forget what it was like to build PAACH, they will use the resources, but they won’t understand,” said Hoa Duong C’01, one of its founders.

“Where are we now? Disjointed, apathetic, resigned,” said Brian Redondo, a College senior. “We need your support. We can’t do it alone.”

Fifty-five alumni attended the Nov. 4 banquet, coming from as far as Chicago and California to join current faculty, staff, and students. An endowment campaign was announced with the aim of raising $100,000 by the 10th anniversary, and awards of recognition were given to Dr. Rosane Rocher, professor of South Asia Studies, and Joseph Sun, director of academic affairs at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

A slideshow reviewed PAACH’s history from October 1999, when students rallied on College Green for a resource to parallel La Casa Latina and Makuu, the black cultural-resource center, to the opening of the community center the following November, to the speakers and student leaders who have come since. “We had to fight so hard to have it,” Duong said.

But PAACH is still fighting—for space and resources. Because of limited funding, the center has to turn down new initiatives, Redondo said. He also criticized PAACH’s inability to retain directors: Chu is the fourth in five years. “How is the center supposed to serve the students when the students have been here longer than the staff?” he asked.

Dr. Ajay Nair, a former director of PAACH and associate director of Asian American Studies, worried that these issues—obtaining resources, keeping PAACH staffed, expanding ethnic-studies programs—are being struggled with in old ways. He’d like to see students “foster substantive relationships with alumni so they can learn from the activism of the past.”

PAACH has begun working with the University of Pennsylvania Asian Alumni Network (UPAAN) to reach out to graduates through newsletters and visits to several major cities. It also hopes to get them involved as mentors.

—Julia Yue Zhou C’06

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