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Event promotes Asian American awareness

Maureen Mullen | Friday, March 24, 2006

A full slate of lectures and discussions focusing on the theme “Voices of Modern Asian America” will attempt to draw students together at Notre Dame’s 2006 InFocus conference today and Saturday.

The keynote speakers for this year’s conference include Emily Liu, a 1994 Notre Dame graduate and successful actress who recently formed her own production company, Roger D. Huang, chairperson of the department of finance at the Mendoza College of Business, and Eric Liu, an Asian American author who served as a speechwriter for President Clinton and who was named in 2002 as one of the 100 Global Leaders of Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum.

Along with Emily Liu, Huang and Eric Liu, a number of other invited guests as well as Notre Dame faculty members will participate in the conference, said John Paul Lichon, student chair for the hospitality committee.

While promoting an appreciation of and desire for diversity is a goal of Notre Dame’s Asian American Association, Lichon said it is not the most featured aspect of the InFocus conference.

“Our title this year is ‘Voices of Modern Asian America,’ and we wanted to discuss ways in which Asian Americans could find their voice and being comfortable in expressing themselves,” he said. “The key to this year’s conference is promoting ways in which Asian Americans can make a difference in the world, starting with gaining understanding of themselves and others, helping them to follow their dreams and passions and then focusing on ways in which to express themselves most fully within the world.”

But while the program is hosted by the Asian American Association and centers on issues of Asian heritage, identity and culture, it is Lichon’s hope that non-Asian students elect to attend conference events as well.  

“The audience has been in past years, mostly Asian,” he said. “We definitely would like students who are not Asian [to] attend. I’ve found though that it’s hard to market to all students. Even some of my own friends find it difficult to attend to attend the conference because it is an Asian American Association event.”

With this in mind, the organizers of InFocus 2006 made an attempt to spread a welcoming word across campus.  

“We made a better effort this year to spread news about the conference by word of mouth,” he said. “We thought personal invitations would be the best way to get other students to attend the conference. This is actually one of the specific ways we tried to target the non-Asian American population.”

InFocus began in 2002 as a medium for Asian American awareness, said Paul Nguyen and Linh Tu, co-chairs of the organizing committee for the event. Each year, the conference invites a select group of Asian Americans accomplished in a variety of professional fields to deliver lectures and participate in panel discussions on campus.

InFocus, organized by student members of Notre Dame’s Asian American Association, also provides student involvement opportunities through the workshops, all of which are conducted by student planning committees. The conference presents a forum for Notre Dame students to interact with and listen to these featured guests and gives the Notre Dame student community an opportunity to come together in striving for diversity, Nguyen and Tu said.

“I think one of the best features of the InFocus Conference is that it’s a conference run by students for students,” Lichon said. “Students are involved in every step of the way. All of our workshops are actually run and facilitated by students.”

The conference begins with a student panel and dinner tonight but will continue Saturday with featured events including an address by each of the keynote speakers, a workshop that will address issues of identity formation and racial stereotypes, a workshop that discusses business and science careers and a workshop that centers on issues of activism and social service. The conference will conclude with a banquet Saturday evening.

Past conferences have featured distinguished speakers including University President Emeritus Father Edward Malloy, Daren Rikio Mooko, director of the Asian American Resource Center at Pomona College and a widely recognized public mentor to Asian Americans, and Parry Shen, a successful television and film actor, Lichon said.