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InFocus conference opens up

Rohan Anand | Friday, March 23, 2007

The Asian American Association (AAA) is hoping it has found a signature event that will cross ethnic lines as it hosts the three-day InFocus conference this weekend.

One indication promising the potential success of the conference is its original theme, “mosaic,” which will explore how people with different personalities “fit into communities at large,” said junior Ashley Chan, a member of the conference’s organizational team.

“We’re hoping to bring together not only the Asian community but the entire campus to see how we all fit into the big picture,” she said. “If you see America as a mosaic, we’re many different people with different personalities.”

AAA president Vince Niou was optimistic about the weekend, predicting the conference will put a positive spotlight on diversity issues at Notre Dame.

“If we cater the conference just for minority students, it adds to the stigma that we’re just here for the benefit of minorities,” said Niou, a senior. “Our main goal is to provide events and activities for the entire student body to enjoy as a whole.”

Eliot Chang, a stand-up comedian from Comedy Central, will lead a workshop titled “Asians in the Media” in the Carey Auditorium of the Hesburgh Library today to kick off the conference.

“He fits in well with the vision of our conference,” Chan said. “American culture [like stand-up comedy] has influenced the Asian culture and vice versa, so his example shows how both societies benefit one another.”

A mix of cultural presentations and lectures Saturday will cater to almost all interests and tastes, with speakers ranging from a professional chef and a plastic surgeon to a tae kwon do instructor.

During the first session, from 10:40 a.m. until lunchtime, Kim Lim, a chef at Penang Malaysian Restaurant in Chicago, will be hosting a cooking session titled “The Fusion of Asian and American Cuisines.”

Simultaneously, Jacqueline Schmidt, a 2001 Notre Dame graduate, will be presenting a lecture called “Hapas.” She will speak about being half-Asian and the hardships of trying to uphold her heritage between two worlds.

Lunchtime will bring a cultural fair presented by the Chinese Cultural Society, The Japan Club, and the Vietnamese, Indian Filipino, and Korean Students Associations. Ethnic foods and displays will be served to participants.

“It will really highlight the uniqueness of the smaller cultural groups of Asian descent,” said junior Kathy Lee, another conference organizer.

The day will conclude with a presentation from Jesse Hsieh, a physician and president of the South Bend Clinic, and a Martial Arts demonstration by Master Hong, an instructor of tae kwon do.

Additionally, guest speaker Josephine Det will fly in from New York to speak about Asian fashion in the business culture and her experiences running a company that outsources projects for Victoria’s Secret and Calvin Klein.

All of the conference’s sessions highlight popular fields of interest about Asian culture in connection with the Asian-American community’s desire to blend in American society.

“Americans love Asian food and self-defense for all,” Chan said. “But by and large … we can see that there is still a huge complex in trying to fit in.”

At midnight, the Indian Students Association will be hosting a Bhangra Bash at Legends, celebrating Indian dance and music.

“We’re really stretching to recognize all of the demographics on campus and bridge the gaps between them,” Lee said. “And we’re hoping that through the use of pop culture, we’re going to achieve that end and attract more participants.”

Besides the AAA, other major sponsors of InFocus include Multicultural Student Programs and Services, the International Student Services Association and the Student Activities Office.