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Texas Exes Asian Alumni Network » Student Spotlight » January Student Spotlight: VAHF 500 Oral Histories Project w/ Jason Wang

January Student Spotlight: VAHF 500 Oral Histories Project w/ Jason Wang

This month’s Texas Exes Asian Alumni Network Profile  is on Jason Wang a 2nd year senior and Asian-American Studies/Pre-med major at The University of Texas at Austin.  Last summer as part of uNAVSA (Union of North American Vietnamese Student Associations) the project he is working on called VAHFs 500 Oral Histories Project was chosen to be part of uNAVSA Collective Philanthropy Project.  Moreover, the VAHF 500 Oral Histories Project was given a special award at the Clinton Global Initiative University when it was hosted at The University of Texas at Austin in 2009.

jasonwang

1. What is/was your involvement at The University of Texas at Austin?

As a student here at UT for the past two years, I’ve found my niche within the Vietnamese American Heritage Foundation, Student Government, and the general Asian American student community.

2. What change would you like to see at UT?

There are many issues facing the student body, but as an Asian American, one of the things that I think we can improve upon is the way Asian Americans participate in community. From fighting for legislation in the State Capitol, to voting in city elections and electing fellow Asian American leaders, to uniting as a common group on campus, there is so much we can do with the right organization and the right motivation. We can accomplish so much if we participate in the community, and help each other when we need the help.

3. What have you learned from UT outside of the classroom?

The greatest thing I’ve received from my education here is that with the right connections, anything is possible, and the opportunities are endless. By opening my eyes and exploring as much as I could, I stumbled upon a few obscure opportunities, which have been instrumental in developing me into an influential community leader.  This gift of leadership will perhaps be the most important thing which carries on into the rest of my life.

4. Who is an important role model to you?

There are a lot of people that I look up to. There are dozens of people in my life who have helped me become the leader that I am today. Parents, friends, coworkers, mentors, they’ve all played a significant role in my life. I would not be who I am without them. I especially look up to the campus leaders who were my predecessors, because they taught me what it meant to be a student leader, which led to all of the amazing opportunities which I have fortuned upon in the past few years.

5. What are your future ambitions?

I was in Navy ROTC last year and it was really killing me- having to wake up at 5am to go exercise, or stand there at position of attention outside the building in full uniform because I had made a mistake somewhere for something. But, I’d still have to say that it was the best experience in my life. I learned so much from it- responsibility and empathy, decisiveness and integrity, dependability and honor, and so much more. My time in ROTC only served to cement my ambitions. My current goals are to become a doctor for the Navy for a decade, and then come out and run for public office, representing and fighting for underrepresented communities. However, life always seems to take a few interesting turns, so I’m still leaving my future open right now. If med school doesn’t work out, maybe I’ll jump directly into politics or non-profit work.

6. What is the VAHF 500 Oral Histories Project and how did you get involved?

The Vietnamese American Heritage Foundation is a non profit (not a student group) currently working on collecting and gathering the thousands of stories from the Vietnamese American community about their journey fleeing their homes during the war. I’m responsible for gathering the stories. Over the summer we received a large grant from uNAVSA, the national umbrella organization for VSAs, and are now working to expand the project to a national scale. We’ve already done a lot of work within Texas alone, and have hosted multiple exhibits attracting thousands of visitors. I became involved with the project after taking the Vietnamese American Culture and History class within the Asian American Studies department. Being forced out of your own home is absolutely terrible. This project needed to be done, and I was in the right place at the right time. I highly recommend two films, which really brought the meaning to me, as a Chinese American- Journey From The Fall, and A Village Called Versailles.

7. What advice can you give incoming freshmen or current students?

For freshmen, the most important thing is to get out there and experience the world. When I was at TAMS, I wasted my freshman year by staying in my room studying. College has so much to offer. Opportunities fall left and right, but only if you continue to look for them. It reminds me of that movie Yes Man, with Jim Carrey, where he had to say yes to everything. It definitely leads you to some interesting things. It got me leading a national non-profit, it got me elected representing 50,000 students, it even got me a job offer as an Assistant State Director for a national congressional campaign, at the ripe old age of 19. With 50,000 students on campus, that’s a lot of money being pooled, and anything is possible. Read the flyers people give you, show up at meetings, go see speakers, and be curious. Try something new every now and then, you might like it.

8. What is your favorite memory, tradition, or thing about UT?

Every experience I’ve had has been an amazing experience, and they all build off of one another. There’s no one great experience- in the end, everything comes together to make college the best experience of my life. The clubs, the friends, ROTC, the philanthropy, the political activism, the knowledge, the self enlightenment, it was all great. But if I had to name one… in true Longhorn fashion, I’d have to go with… WINNING FOOTBALL GAMES!

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Written by Jennifer Wang

Filed under: Student Spotlight

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