by Amos Wright
As anyone familiar with Tufts knows, multiculturalism and pluralism are values that have long been institutionalized in the university's schools, departments and programs. This multicultural ethos is especially evident in the Tufts Asian American Center and Tufts Latino Center. Both centers are celebrating 30th and 20th anniversaries respectively on the weekend of October 12-13, 2013.
According to College Data's 2012 Annual Survey of Colleges, 11 percent of
Tufts' student population identifies as Asian, and 7 percent identifies as
Hispanic/Latino. The two centers offer a range of services and support to Asian
American and Latino students in the Tufts community.
The 2013-2014 Asian American Center Peer Leaders coordinate programming for the community and serve as resources for first-years in their transition to Tufts.
Photo: Esther Kim (A15)
Latino Center sponsored Ice Skating trip to Frog Pond on the Boston Commons
Photo: Tufts Latino Center
The 2013-2014 Latino Center Peer Leaders provide support and offer advice to first-year Latino students at Tufts.
Photo: Tufts Latino Center
The Asian-American Center functions as a resource for the university's Asian
American communities, providing a supportive environment for students' personal
and academic development, while also recognizing that students cannot be reduced
to their racial or ethnic identities. In conjunction with the Asian American
Studies minor and the American Studies program, the Asian American Center
provides an opportunity for students who are not pursuing traditional liberal
arts majors, such as mechanical engineering student Richa Batra (A12), to
participate in identity discourse. "As a former house resident, I had the
opportunity to immerse myself in everything the center had to offer," says Batra.
"The events hosted by the center, and the impromptu discussions that arose at
the house, gave me a perspective on diversity, race, and culture that led to a
deeper understanding of myself. As an engineering student, I would never have
obtained the knowledge in class that I did from attending a talk by the founder
of Swirl, a multiracial community focused on dialogue, or from the economics
professor who spoke about the impacts of race on salary."
But neither is the Asian-American Center's influence circumscribed to the Tufts campus. William Huang (A12) attests to the center's history of scaling up the concerns of the Tufts community to the larger Asian-American diaspora: "I'm proud of working with the center on programming to expand the intersections of what it means to be Asian American with other social identities," says Huang. During his senior year, Huang adds, he participated in "a fascinating discussion with American Studies professor Jean Wu about the Jeremy Lin phenomenon that explored racialized notions of masculinity within our culture." Through the Asian-American Center's community, Huang says he learned about the stigma of mental illness, LGBT Asian Americans, the Vietnamese community affected by Hurricane Katrina, and "many other pertinent topics that exposed me to the complexity of systems outside of Tufts."
The Asian American Center was established in 1983 in response to the
globalization of academic campuses and an increase in foreign-born students.
Director Linell Yugawa acknowledges that Tufts' student population is a
microcosm reflecting broader changes in the nation's demographic profile,
thereby accentuating the need to connect the Asian-American experience on campus
to the national and international contexts: "We have a broader representation of
Asian ethnicities, and many students identify with a transnational experience,"
The Latino Center's services include sponsoring the Latino Peer Leader
Program, Latino Center Retreat, Latino Heritage Month, and a documentary film,
Latinos on Campus describing the
vicissitudes and achievements of Tufts' Latino students. Directed by filmmaker
Roberto Arevalo, the documentary relates the experiences of Tufts Latino
students to the more holistic national context.
Over the past twenty years, the Latino Center has hosted a number of acclaimed speakers and lecturers including Mexican-American actor Edward James Olmos, and Gloria Anzaldúa, Chicana theorist and author of Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, a text examining the national, cultural, linguistic, and psychological schisms that arise from the literal Mexico-United States border barrier. The Latino Center and the Asian American Center, through special programming and support services, attempt to dissolve or ameliorate the borders described and analyzed by Anzaldúa . According to Erin Piñon (A13), now a master's candidate at Southern Methodist University, the Latino Center has been successful in teaching lessons that can be parlayed into life after college: "The Latino Center was critical to my emotional, social and academic development at Tufts," says Piñon, who met her best friends on the first day of orientation at the Latino Center Open House. "As a biracial Latina, I was never ‘enough' for the Texas Latinos back home. For the first time I was in an environment that considered me one of them. It shaped my identity today and all of my experiences, both fun and educational, and taught me to critically think and interact with my peers, a skill I've carried with me to graduate school."
Anniversary EventsThe Asian American Center will host its anniversary program on Sunday, October 13, 2013, from 12:00 – 3:00 PM in the Aidekman Arts Center to coincide with Homecoming Weekend. The program is scheduled to include brief addresses from President Monaco, Professor Jayanthi Mistry, alum and student speakers, and Asian American Center Director Linell Yugawa. The program will be supplemented by a poster exhibition on the Center from Asian student organizations.