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  • Creating an Inclusive Strategy: MIT’s Asian Pacific American (APA) Employee Resource Group

Creating an Inclusive Strategy: MIT’s Asian Pacific American (APA) Employee Resource Group

Creating an Inclusive Strategy: MIT’s Asian Pacific American (APA) Employee Resource Group

A rather broad geographical location, Asia/Pacific encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island). The APA-ERG group is open to all faculty and staff in the MIT community irrespective of “where you come from,” sometimes it’s where you want to go that’s more important – such as having an interest in the area overall.

The month of May is designated in the U.S. as Asian Pacific American month. It first began as a week and then through a series of legislative resolutions was designated for the entire month of May in 1992. The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the U.S. on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants. (http://asianpacificheritage.gov/about/)

History and Mission

The MIT APA group formed during the initial discovery stage of creating employee resource groups at MIT in 2012. The time and dedication of the early leaders of the APA helped to build the infrastructure and momentum for all of the ERGs. 

The mission of the MIT APA Employee Resource Group is to foster networking, professional development, mentoring, and leadership opportunities with a focus on the recruitment, retention, learning, and advancement of Asian Pacific Americans at MIT.

It aims to highlight achievements by Asian Americans in all fields and how those achievements touch our lives. To facilitate that, the APA sponsors programs to encourage direct dialogue and discussions in an open, honest environment via film screenings with an Asian-American focus and monthly brown bag lunches for informal discussions of current “hot topics,” balanced with more formal sessions for networking and professional development (sometimes in collaboration with other ERGs). All activities are geared toward encouraging its members to discuss issues of concern and importance in their professional and personal lives and learn from shared experiences. The APA ERG members believe that each of us has a story to tell and each story is significant.

Objectives of the APA ERG

  • Embrace a culture of inclusion and build awareness and appreciation for diversity
  • Facilitate networking and career development opportunities by connecting members with similar professional and personal interests
  • Facilitate informal mentoring opportunities by providing guidance, advice, and training as well as sharing the exciting work being done throughout MIT
  • Sponsor professional and personal development workshops, seminars, and lectures featuring distinguished speakers
  • Ensure that information about events of interest and members’ achievements is effectively distributed throughout MIT
  • Foster awareness of Asian Pacific American issues

2016-17 Highlights

  • Presented Joi Ito, Director of the MIT Media Lab, to share his personally inspirational story.
  • Hosted a live Japanese Tea Ceremony to learn about the Japanese Tea Culture and its origins. The audience sampled the exquisite tea and accompanying sweets. The elegance and grace with which the ceremony was conducted could only be appreciated by observing it so closely, something we don’t normally have a chance to do.
  • To raise the awareness of mental health, students from Lexington High School and a professor from Harvard Medical School shared their research results on stress levels for high school students among Asian families. It is not always easy (culturally or socially) to discuss such matters, but the goal is to make it okY to have these discussions with sensitivity and empathy.
  • In collaboration with the Latino ERG, the group sponsored a session on tips for clearer speech for non-native English speakers. The responses were positive, and below is one example: :

“Researchers, students and post-docs, faculty and staff can benefit greatly from this type of focused development, which addresses a need beyond the more widely accepted “how to do great presentations” or “how to communicate effectively” type of class. It’s hard to do those things, both of which involve TALKING to your audience, if your accent gets in the way of effective communication. It does not matter how great your data is or how well you know your stuff, unless people can understand your speech, they are going to be less likely to give you their attention. This can lead to impeding professional advancement.”   

  • The APA ERG consistently gives back to the Institute in MIT’s efforts to be an inclusive workplace, , participating in career events and other related events to reflect the diverse culture of MIT.

The APA ERG co-leads are Rupinder Grewal from OSP (rgrewal@mit.edu) and Qian Kang from IS&T (QianKang@mit.edu).

For information to become a member, or learn about upcoming events, sign up to receive emails.