On September 21, the University of Cincinnati Libraries sponsored and hosted a Generational Summit organized by UC’s Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi American (APIDA) Staff & Faculty Employee Resource Group and the Greater Cincinnati Asian-American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Community Leaders. At the event, student government representatives and leaders from more than eight student associations joined UC alumni and leaders from the local Asian community to participate in a three-hour long generational summit. During the summit, they discussed topics around Asian heritage and legacy, and identified challenges and gaps in connecting the various student groups and UC in general with the local Asian community.
“There exists a need to bridge the generational gap between the younger and older generations among the Asian groups,” said co-organizer Richard A. Robles, EdD, professor, Engineering and Applied Science Co-op Programs; Architectural Engineering & Civil Engineering Co-op in the College of Cooperative Education and Professional Studies. “In my personal experience, younger high school kids are leaving the area never to return. And if they return, they don’t connect with their cultural heritage. Right now, Generation X and early Millennials are serving as what I call the ‘Middle Generation,’ interpreting the messages of our elders and representing the needs of the younger generation.”
As a board member for the Filipino-American Association of Southern Ohio (FASO), Rich was approached by the AAPI Community Leads to host what they named the “Generational Summit.” The meeting served as one of the quarterly meetings for the Cincinnati AAPI Community Leaders. The outcomes of the meeting included: (1) connect student organizations to the Greater Cincinnati APIDA cultural groups; (2) show parents of potential Bearcats how they can continue their cultural connections; and (3) foster future and intentional collaborations between the two APIDA communities.
“In my 20+ years at UC, a meeting of this kind was unheard of. Many of the student leaders in attendance mentioned that they didn’t know what groups existed outside of UC. While there were five community leaders in attendance, our student leaders now have connections to organizations outside of UC,” Rich concluded.
Yu Mao, UC Libraries director of the business office and membership lead for APIDA Staff & Faculty ERG, noted that one thing that really stuck her was the analogy shared by Bao Nguyen, a community activist, that Asian immigrants/Asian Americans in Cincinnati are like planting a tropical fruit in Midwest Ohio – it’s not going to result in blossoms and fruit immediately because our heritage affects who we are in different stages of life, and the experiences and environment we have in America is vastly different with where we and our ancestors are from, but we’re striving to create deeper roots in Cincinnati – to make the city a home, to help other Asian Cincinnatians and students find belonging. “I just felt that that was beautifully said and meaningful,” Yu concluded.
Another objective of the generational summit was to create connections and networking opportunities for students seeking mentors from the community, UC staff and faculty. With heavy academic responsibilities and the pressures to find a job, students welcome guidance and mentorship from their own Asian community. Those in attendance felt that UC is the perfect space for that community engagement.
The APIDA Staff & Faculty ERG provides a space where faculty and staff who identify within this ethnically diverse diaspora can find support and community at the University of Cincinnati. This affinity group is intended to enhance the sense of belonging for APIDA staff and faculty members at the university and serves as a body that supports the professional and personal development of its members.