By Jake Tiger
As campus blooms into life, Rider University celebrates those with eastern roots during Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, a month-long celebration of the culture, traditions and history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.
“The number of Asian students is increasing,” said Associate Dean Lan Nyugren. “We need to recognize that and make them aware that there is a community here for them, so they have a sense of home.”
Congress designated May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month in 1992, but Rider chooses to celebrate in April due to “the abundance of activities surrounding Commencement,” according to the university.
The festivities begin on April 5 at 11 a.m. with a celebration through food, as Daly Dining Hall’s menu will include dishes from Asian and Pacific cultures, each voted on by Rider students. Subsequent culinary celebrations will be held on April 12 and 26.
“I think it’s even more important that we take advantage of Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, for Rider to celebrate our culture, to make people feel like they’re heard,” said Nyugren.
The Asian American Alliance (AAA), with the help of the Office of International Education (OIE) and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI), will also be hosting an Asian and Asian American culture awareness event in an effort to further educate the community and increase representation. It will feature entertainment, games and prizes, and will take place on April 6 from 5-7 p.m. in the Mercer Room of Daly’s.
“There are a lot of myths around Asian and Asian American culture, so we want to use this event as an opportunity to increase the awareness,” said Nyugren, a member of AAA who helped organize the awareness event. “We want to invite the communities over to really make them feel their identities are valued and appreciated, and their culture is recognized.”
Junior communication studies major Jaina Daclan, president of Rider’s Asian American Students Association (AASA), said that AASA has other celebrations planned for later in the month that aren’t featured on the schedule released by the university, including a cultural showcase and talent show on April 7 from 7-9 p.m. in the Bart Leudeke Center’s Cavalla Room.
“A lot of outside schools are going to be coming too, like people coming to show off what they have: singing, dancing, whatever it is. It’s gonna be a fun time,” said Daclan. “We’re going to have desserts, of course.”
Later in the month, AASA has additional plans for a movie night on April 20 from 6-9 p.m. in room 209 of the Science and Technology Center, but the movie has yet to be decided.
AASA is also hoping to hold a teaching kitchen where assistant professor and AASA Advisor Yoshinori Tanokura will show attendees how to make curry, but there is currently no set date, time or location. AASA will be providing updates for all events on their Instagram: @rider_aasa.
“It’s hard to find representation here, and a lot of people don’t realize this is a predominantly white institution,” Daclan said about her experiences at Rider. “I want to give them a chance and an environment to be like, ‘There’s a place that’s safe for you, and you belong.’”