It was an early cold, windy Saturday morning in October. University of North Texas (UNT), where the conference took place, is a fairly large school. After checking in, we were treated with a generous breakfast menu which included fruits, bagels, juice, and other sweet items. Being the first ones there, our group took our time eating breakfast as we watched the room fill up with groups from other schools. The conference officially started at 10 A.M. when the facilitators introduced APAEC – Asian Pacific American Empowerment Conference, and gave a shout out to all the schools that were participating. Besides UTD, there was UT Austin, UT San Antonio, UT Arlington, University of Houston, Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma University and of course, UNT. Most of the participants were from an Asian culture student organization at their campus, and it was interesting to find that more than half of those were Vietnamese student groups.
The conference was basically composed of multiple speaker sessions, beginning and ending with two keynote speakers and workshops in between. The first keynote speaker was a professor as well as a writer who has a PhD in Ethnic Studies, Dr. Oliver Wang. His speech covered “Asian American Transformations in Pop Culture”. “How could this be interesting enough to last an hour?” I thought. It was still too early for me and the thought of sitting through an hour lecture is dreadful. To my surprise, his presentation was not at all a lecture; instead, he entertained the audience with his research on current pop culture such as the Far East Movement group, Jeremy Lin, and the Gangnam Style. Of course, his humor also made the presentation much more enjoyable.
Fast forward past ice breakers and lunch time, came the breakout sessions where I got to pick two out of nine workshops to attend. There were a wide variety of topics ranging from culture in music to communication styles. The first workshop I attended taught me the key points of planning a project –assigning responsibilities, allocating resources and presenting the idea. With a smaller group in my second workshop, the attendees got to interact more with the presenter as we discussed the techniques in preparing an effective ‘elevator speech’. “Not only should you know your strengths, knowing your weaknesses and how to improve is equally important”, said Ms. Kim Cummings during the workshop. Both of the workshops were informative and gave me new skills to take away.
When the two breakout sessions were over, it was 4 P.M. I was tired, sleepy, and ready to head back home. But, there was another item on the agenda, the second keynote speaker. Ms. Duy-Loan Le is a well-known figure with many accomplishments in the engineering field, specifically with Texas Instruments. Her speech was about “aspiration”, which I am very interested in, although I did not have the energy for it at the moment. But guess what? She gave me the energy! From the first words of her speech, I could hear the confidence and passion in her voice. She told the audience her life story and what motivates her to do what she does; and that just inspired us all. Her speech made me think about the activities that I am involved in. Yes, I like what I do. But only when I love what I do, would I enjoy every second doing it. Her speech was a great way to end the conference, giving us inspiration before we left Denton. Inspiration to do more, to be part of something bigger – the kind of inspiration that changes the world.
Author: Vi Tran
Vi is a Multicultural Peer Advocate in the Multicultural Center. She is responsible for assisting in the planning and execution of asian programming and other cultural events in the enter. She is working on her Master’s in Information Technology and Management in the JSOM here at UT Dallas. She likes to have fun and be active on campus. Look for more blog posts from her in the future.