“One of the big takeaways is that I know so very little about being Chinese, despite that it is the only life I've ever known,” Jason said. “I feel that mental health in the Asian American community, as well as the elderly, are topics that have a flourishing amount of nuance to them, but are also an everyday lived experience that we just don't get to hear often enough.” Amber agrees. “We focus on the normal lives of Asian American elders because discussions about their community are always about the problems,” she notes, yet “they are Americans first” whose “lives are as much a part of American society as everyone else.” Likewise, mental health is a “taboo” subject among many Asian American communities, Andy maintains; we need to unpack the stigma and open up for dialogue. “An inclusive, engaged community by definition must involve developing relationships with people and partners outside of the academy and identifying ways to collaborate,” Alyssa notes. “At a predominantly White institution, it calls us to build intentional connections with communities of color.”
Indeed, building connections is vital for students’ growth — not only academically for producing knowledge but also personally with different people and communities. Prof. Wong concludes that the students have become more attentive, introspective, and engaged as listeners, thinkers, and global citizens. Hopefully, this is only the beginning.
St. Olaf College students, from left to right, Amber Waller, Andy Nelson, and Jason Tan
— Written by Ka Wong, Alyssa Melby, Andy Nelson, Jason Tan, Amber Waller