Most students hear the cliché phrases “history repeats itself” and “history is written by the winners” by their old professors or parents. Phillip Cheng, a 28-year-old high school mathematics teacher in Hawaii repeats the same thing.
“I understood the history,” Cheng said. “The 2000s was a very good time [for Asian Americans]. I couldn’t give up.”
Cheng explained that the early 2000s was an angsty time because Asian American students were infuriated by the lack of representation of themselves on the UF campus. Through the Asian American archives, you can witness the protests that occurred rallying for a minor and a space to call their own. Cheng believed that there was another approach to dealing with the absence of resources.
According to Michael Satyapor, former president of the Asian American Student Union (AASU) who now works for Nielsen, the idea for the UF Association of Asian Alumni (AAA) was being crafted four to five years before he and a few other students started building a network. In 2009, they began the hunt for past alumni through the alumni chair under the executive board of AASU. Then in March 2010, Satyapor presented the idea for AAA to the UF Alumni Association (UFAA) for approval.
When asked about the purpose of AAA, Satyapor said, “The purpose of AAA is to support, enrich, reconnect and connect alumni to improve the university.”
Satyapor is the current president of AAA and aims to increase the ever-growing membership in the AAA, build a scholarship for Asian American students and plan local events like tailgating.
Meanwhile, Cheng continues to emphasize the significance of constructing an institution that produces scholarly research and articles through the help of the AAA. He said that he realizes that an immense effort, time, and money will be needed to achieve his goals thirty years down the line. He wants to see an Asian American studies major and more students taking the Asian American Studies minor.
“I look forward to building peer connection with students and to support their studies,” Cheng said. “For me, it is all about the personal connection and the physical meeting of the students.”
Photo courtesy of the University of Florida Association of Asian Alumni Facebook page.
Editor’s note: This article has been corrected with Phillip Cheng’s correct age, 28. We apologize for the error.
The article has been updated to reflect that Michael Satyapor is president of the AAA.