Asian-American opener aims at awareness

By Linda Luk

Asian American Heritage Month kicked off with a reception in the Adams Hall’s Chandelier Room Monday afternoon.

Students, faculty and staff attended the reception, sponsored by the Presidential Task Force on Asian Americans and the Asian American Alliance of

Shei-ruei Fang, a faculty member of family, consumer and nutrition science said the reception “provides an opportunity for Asians and non-Asians to mingle.”

Robert Wheeler, interim associate provost, started the event with an opening address presenting the history of the task force and its goals for the future.

“The Presidential Task Force on Asian Americans was created by former NIU president John E. La Tourette, in summer 1999,” he said. “We are working really hard to improve the Asian environment for faculty, staff and students, and we envision an Asian Center where students can get together.”

Another speaker was junior corporate communication major Sopheap Long, Asian American Association president. She presented the need for more Asian programs and representation on campus.

“We need a campus-wide effort to educate the various Asian culture,” she said. “We have had a huge year for Asian American Association. We hosted a town hall meeting where Asian students finally had a chance to express their needs.”

Murali Kishnamurthi, director of the faculty development and instructional design center, said this year’s events demonstrate the talent of many people on campus, including the Southeast Asian Studies and Theatre and Arts programs.

“I think it is important to educate ourselves and celebrate the diverse cultures,” Kishnamurthi said. “We hope this is not only a month of celebration but

also educational. We hope to unified us culturally, regardless if we are Asians or not.”

Also presented at the reception were demographics regarding the increase in the Asian American population. Dan House, director of institutional research, said the demographics for Asian Americans have changed tremendously in a short period of time. National data in the past 20 years shows that there has been an increase of 220 percent in undergraduates and, in the past 15 years, an increase of 140 percent. Between 1990-2000 the population of Asian Americans in Illinois has increased 50 percent.

“NIU serves a predominate region in Illinois where the number of Asian American high school graduates will increase 40 percent,” House said. “As we look at the future, there is a lack of courses, lack of staff and faculty relating to Asian Americans. The opportunities to grow are great, and we look forward partnering with students.”