You’re part of something big. Something that’s only getting bigger. 

In this 2011 Annual Report, we’d like to remind our members that being a part of AAAYA means being a part of something big: something bigger than the events that you attend in your local chapter, or even the sum total of the hundreds of alumni who attended over 30 events in 6 cities in 2011.

You’re a part of a movement that’s been decades in the making. Asian American alumni first showed up in significant numbers on Yale’s campus in the 1960s. It wasn’t until the 1980s that there were enough alumni to convene an informal alumni group on the West Coast. In 2006, after an aborted attempt to convene an Asian American reunion on Yale’s campus, alumni in New York and San Francisco decided to formally organize AAAYA and build a grassroots organization – through local chapters in major metro areas.

The idea was to start local, start small, and then build up to something big: a national alumni organization that would bring Asian and Asian American alumni together to accomplish all sorts of things that we wouldn’t be able to do on our own: strengthen our personal and professional networks, provide mentorship and guidance to students on campus, and support Asian American causes through our local Asian American community organizations.

In Annual Reports from past years (2008, 2009, and 2010), we’ve talked a lot about building our membership base, growing our local chapters, and building a truly national organization. This year, five years after we started this effort, that message remains: we’re still growing, and we’re still building. But now that we stand at this five year mark, we can safely say that yes, we have built something big.

Can it become even bigger? Absolutely, and at the end of this report, we’ll talk about how you can help continue our growth. But for now, let’s recap a year’s worth of exciting activities, reflect on the decades of work that’s made all of this possible, and recognize how it’s all much larger than the sum of our parts.

Strengthening Alumni Ties

In 2011, AAAYA held over 20 events to build and strengthen our alumni network. As has become tradition, we rang in the Lunar New Year in style. Northern California alumni gathered for dim sum and lion dancing prior to San Francisco’s Lunar New Year Parade (the largest in the western hemisphere!).

New York alumni gathered for its annual Lunar New Year banquet, which has raised funds for community service summer fellowships since 2009. This year’s honorees were Kunduck Moon ’76, Ming Cho Lee, and Alice Young ’71. Maya Lin ‘81 also made a special guest appearance!

(Video by Jackson Loo, ’02)

During two reunion weekends in June, the Asian American Cultural Center opened its doors to host returning alumni and their guests. Just as the AACC was a home away from home for many AAAYA members during their time on campus, it continues to be a place for us to gather and reflect on our shared experiences. Thanks to Saveena Dhall, AACC Director, for hosting us again. If your reunion year is coming up in 2012, be sure to make this reception a part of your plans that weekend.

During the rest of the summer and fall, local chapters in five cities organized amazingly diverse and exciting programs for alumni. Culture, food, education, and even sports: no area was left uncovered!

Northern California offered dragon boat racing lessons, Asian food truck tasting, its annual summer picnic, an entrepreneurs and investors mixer, and an interactive Bollywood movie screening and dance party.

Chicago organized a combination Chinese food lunch and wine tasting and a trip to see Kosuke Kimura, the first and only Japanese player in Major League Soccer, at a Chicago Fire Major League Soccer game.

Alumni in New York City enjoyed an Asia Society panel discussion on Chinese architecture with Yale Professor of Architecture Alan Plattus, a benefit soiree for the Yale Alumni of Metropolitan New York at the New York Times building, a pan-Ivy Asian alumni picnic, a panel discussion on Asian American culture at the Museum of Chinese in America, as well as a special tour of the Maya Lin-designed museum.

We also welcomed Washington, DC, alumni to the fold with a local chapter kick-off gathering in October! Alumni there are excited and energized to bring new programming to our capital city, where there are large numbers of Asian and Asian American alumni.

 

We’re so excited that local chapters have been able to bring alumni together through these great programs. Connecting alumni with each other is an important part of AAAYA’s mission, but it’s just the beginning. Once mobilized, our alumni community can accomplish big things for Yale students on campus and our local Asian American communities.

Connecting with Campus

Once again, our alumni organization turned out in a big way to offer exciting externship opportunities for Asian American students at Yale College. This year alumni in 5 cities created externship opportunities for 15 students. Since 2007, this program has created a total of 68 externship opportunities. Talk about being a part of something big! Not only does it take a large number of alumni externship sponsors to do this, it takes a huge coordinating effort between alumni, AACC, and Undergraduate Career Services.

In addition to the externship program, alumni and students met for socializing and mentorship at the annual sophomore day trip to NYC in April and the annual on-campus Student Alumni banquet, held this year on the eve of the Harvard-Yale football game.  Students got an earful from alumni on advice for the real world, and in exchange, alumni got to hear from students how much campus life has changed over the years, including the shocking fact that dorm room phone lines, once the backbone of college social life, are now off by default and only activated upon special request!

Going beyond current Yale students, we even conducted outreach to help bring the next generation of Asian American students to Yale. Alumni in Northern California participated in newly admitted student receptions and invited those new students and their families to their annual summer picnic. Alumni in Chicago participated in a college fair organized by the Hanul Family Alliance for Asian American students in the Chicagoland area.

AAAYA and the Community

Service to our local communities, in particular our Asian-American immigrant communities, is a very important part of AAAYA’s mission. AAAYA offers opportunities for alumni, who are either immigrants themselves or children of immigrants, to connect with and help communities that are often cut off from resources due to language and cultural barriers.

In May, we participated in Yale’s Global Day of Service, with great turnouts in New York, Chicago, Southern California, and Northern California. You can read more about the day’s events in our previous recap, or you can enjoy this video recap of our Southern California volunteers at the 28th Annual Children’s Day Celebration, sponsored by JACCC (Japanese American Cultural and Community Center):

Video by Azan Kung, ‘91

As with previous years, we were able to fund community service summer internships for three Yale undergraduates working in Asian American community organizations. The 2011 Tina Yeh fellowship supported Vi Nguyen’s work with the Organization of Chinese Americans in Washington, D.C. The 2011 New York City summer fellowships supported Jin Jin Sun’s work with the Asian American Arts Alliance and Christine Chen’s work with Coalition of Asian American Children and Families.

AAAYA makes these summer community fellowship opportunities possible. They would not exist if we couldn’t come together to fund the internships, choose the internship sites, recruit students to apply, and vet the applications. Because of our combined efforts, Yale undergrads get a unique opportunity to learn about issues affecting Asian American communities, and organizations hosting the interns get the benefit of a Yalie supporting their vital work in those communities.

This is what it means to be a part of something big: to create something new and powerful that we couldn’t create on our own. This is what it means to be a part of AAAYA.

You’re a part of something big. Now help it become even bigger.

After five years of building AAAYA into something big, we can—and should—look back and be proud of our accomplishments. But if this is what we’ve been able to do in the last five years, think of what we can do in the next five years. We can expand our geographic footprint to communities with large numbers of Asian American alumni like Boston and New Haven. We can help strengthen the on campus Asian American community through increased assistance to the AACC, which, having just recently obtained sole occupancy of its 295 Crown Street home, is poised for a major expansion in the coming years. We can expand our reach to the community through more fellowships for students and service opportunities for alumni.

We can even host the on-campus reunion that didn’t come together the first time—and make it a huge success!

But in order to do any of these things, we need your help and your ideas:

  • Help plan events in our local chapters. If you live in New York, Chicago, Northern California, Southern California, Washington, DC, or New Haven, and want to help build these local chapters and plan events, drop us a line and we’ll put you in contact with coordinators who can tell you more.
  • Join our online communities. No matter where you live, you can participate in lively discussions in our Yahoo Group email list. You can also “like” us on our new Facebook page.
  • Spread the word. There are a lot of Asian and Asian American alumni out there who have never heard of AAAYA. If you’re reading this, chances are you have friends that fit this description. Send them this annual report and tell them to join our mailing list.
  • Share your ideas. If you read this annual report and thought of something that we didn’t do but should be doing—whether it’s for our alumni network, for Yale students, or for our communities, drop us a line. We’d love to hear your ideas!

A big thank you to everyone who attended or helped plan an AAAYA event in 2011. We look forward to seeing you again in 2012!