Price hosts Lunar New Year celebration

The Cultural Compass event highlighted Asian American and Pacific Islander traditions.

Panelists Alice Chen, Grace Bahng and Shui Yan Tang spoke to their experiences as Asian American and Pacific Islander students and as educators. (Elizabeth Kunz / Daily Trojan)

Students and staff celebrated Lunar New Year on Tuesday in the Lewis Hall Greenlaw Auditorium with a panel discussion and dance performances at “A Celebration of AAPI Voices and Lunar New Year,” an event hosted by the Price School of Public Policy intended to highlight Asian American and Pacific Islander voices. 

The event was part of a larger series organized by Price in conjunction with the Price Office of Student Affairs, known as the “Cultural Compass” events, which aim to “speak to the holistic parts” of the student experience, said Brittany Buendia-Moralez, the host of the event.

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The event series will guide students from a cultural perspective along a journey through the diverse narratives that define USC. The series aims to amplify diverse voices in the community, to inspire students to build a more “inclusive and equitable future” through public policy.

Panelists Alice Chen, Grace Bahng and Shui Yan Tang spoke to their cultural identity and how it shaped their experiences both as students and as educators.

Yan Tang, Duggan professor in public administration and chair of the Department of Public Policy and Management, spoke to the “two narratives” of his life: one a Western perspective and one stemming from his Chinese heritage. Growing up in Hong Kong, Yan Tang said he experienced history lessons from both a Chinese and a British perspective, which introduced him to balancing these different cultural perspectives. 

As a first-generation immigrant to the United States, Yan Tang said he felt “caught in the middle” between the Chinese and the Western perspectives on global affairs. Yan Tang said that although it could be difficult for him to balance these two narratives, he maintained it as a career focus, writing books in both Chinese and English discussing issues of public policy based on his experience with the U.S. system. 

Chen, associate professor and vice dean for research, said her background as an Asian American woman fundamentally shaped her education pathway. 

“I went to college thinking that I would be what most Asian families value, which is being a lawyer or doctor,” Chen said. However, she did not enjoy either of these career paths, and ended up picking a field which combined her interest in research while still incorporating the importance her upbringing placed on advanced degrees.

a dancer twirls
Anna Liu performed a traditional Chinese dance about the water goddess of the Luo River having her first exploration of the human world. (Elizabeth Kunz / Daily Trojan)

Bahng, the current vice dean for undergraduate programs and a second-generation Korean American, also discussed how her cultural background influenced her career choice. 

Bahng said that her parents experienced troubles from the Korean War, which motivated her to pursue a career studying global poverty with an emphasis on refugees and internally displaced people. She considered this focus “personal” due to her family’s own history with immigration and the Korean War. Now, Bahng works on a more local level, working in community development in Koreatown. 

The panelists ended by offering advice to current students who may be struggling with their own cultural identity as Asian Americans in the education space. Alice says that “stereotypically, Asian Americans are known for … not speaking up as much,” and that it’s important to learn how to do this, especially in an education system that values extroversion.

“[It’s important to] be willing to take up space,” said Chen. Chen recommended speaking to professors one-on-one as a way to practice.

 Bahng went on to discuss how the U.S. education system ”tends to favor extroverts,” making it difficult for students who don’t conform to this standard. 

“Public policy is a collaborative field, and we ask students to collaborate a lot,” said Bahng. She said it’s important in her work to learn how to address and confront “different cultures” and “different learning styles.” 

Jocelyn Henriquez Reyes, a graduate student studying urban planning, said the event was a helpful conversation on how to handle educational spaces as a first-generation immigrant.

“I think hearing experience from people who have been students in the past and are even now professors is very helpful,” Reyes said. “It can show you that even though you have these struggles right now, you can still get very far in your career.” 

The event ended with a traditional Chinese dance from the Traditional Chinese Dance at USC troupe. Anna Liu, a sophomore majoring in human biology as well as biochemistry, performed as Luo Shen, the water goddess of the Luo River exploring the human world for the first time. 

“I think this is a great event to spread awareness about Lunar New Year,” Liu said.

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