UISG hosts Asian Discussion Circle to build bridges

At an Asian Discussion Circle, the UI Student Government hopes to build bridges between Asian-American students and Asian students.


The Daily Iowan; Photos by Lily

Students converse during the UISG Asian American Discussion Circle at the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center on Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. The event served as an outlet for Asian UI students to explore identity and express issues related to Asian students. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Sarah Watson, [email protected]


The University of Iowa Student Government hosted an Asian discussion circle in which students talked about the difficulties of bridging the gap between Asian-American students and international students and their differing cultures.

Junior Sanjeev Thangarajah, a student from Sri Lanka, led the discussion, which centered on such topics as Asian identity and solutions to issues pertaining to Asian Americans and Asian students.

“Asia is very large and has a lot of diverse communities, so during the discussion circle, I was able to get a lot of diverse perspectives,” Thangarajah said. “One of the issues I would like to focus on is the issue that Asian Americans are very different from international students.”

Thangarajah said UISG is looking to elect an international constituent, and he thinks the discussion will help provide student vices in support for the additional position.

“Like some of the people here said, the only way you will be able to include everyone is by focusing on people’s issues separately, because while there might be overlap, a lot of Asian communities are very different,” Thangarajah said.

In 2016, 4 percent of the incoming class were Asian-American students and 7.5 percent of the class were international students, including students from Asian countries.

“I feel like [the term] Asian is very diverse, so sometimes I do feel like there is a gap between international students and Asian-American students, and sometimes we have different topics of interests, and we dress different,” student Weiwen Chen said. “Even after I came to America, I felt the culture affect me, and I felt that I had to fit into American culture.”

Another issue brought up by Thangarajah was the sheer number of Asian cultures and communities represented and how some students may not feel like the Asian Pacific Cultural Center would be a place they would be included in.

At the end of the meeting, Thangarajah offered the group to vote on whether to change the name of the Asian Pacific Center to a name more inclusive of international students and Eastern Asian communities on campus.

“I hope that we will be able to come up with some ideas and some plans so that this time next year that the student as a whole and the student leaders can come together to create an inclusive community,” constituent Sunny Ho said. “There are a lot of bridges and a lot of networking I think we need to do.”

Other topics that came up included more advocacy for mental health in Asian communities, with a focus on students finding their own identity on campus.

Small-group representatives also suggested hosting more discussion groups partnered with other cultures and hosting a cultural fair to showcase and learn about other Asian communities.

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