Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

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May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month! 

To celebrate AAPI Month, we are highlighting several students from the University of Tulsa who are officers for TU’s Asian American Student Association, including one of our own employees, Madison Doan. They took a moment during finals week to share with us why they are a part of AASU-TU as well as what they hope to see in the future for the Asian community. 


Roxanne Ellison

Heritage: Filipino

Major: Biology

Officer Role: External Vice President



Theresa Lam

Heritage: Vietnamese

Major: Management in HR

Officer Role: Former AASA President


Madison Doan

Heritage: Vietnamese

Major: Cyber Security

Officer Role: Marketing Coordinator


Lian Kim

Heritage: Burmese (Zomi) American

Major: Biology pre-med

Officer Role: Administrative assistant transitioning in to vice president for internal affairs in the 2023-2024 school year


What does Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month mean to you?

Theresa: AAPI month means taking the time to recognize and acknowledge the sacrifices our ancestors made to build a solid foundation for Asian representation in the US! It is also a time to celebrate, reflect, and embrace different cultural traditions across all Asian regions.

Madison: This month is a great way to appreciate AAPI culture! It’s especially important to me as someone who is half Asian, it helps me get in tune with and celebrate my heritage.

Lian: AAPI Month is a month of recognition, celebration, remembrance, appreciation, and a reminder of what it means to be Asian. It is to demonstrate and educate our culture all the while holding pride in our culture.


Why was it important for you to be an officer for AASA? 

Roxanne: Having an opportunity to be a part of AASA has been a highlight of my time at TU thus far. Throughout high school, I often found myself to be the only Asian student in my classes, and so finding a close-knit community through AASA was especially meaningful to me. As an officer, I am passionate about cultivating a welcoming and safe space for Asian American students on campus. I love being part of a community that is conscious and appreciative of diverse backgrounds like mine. 

Theresa: Being an officer for AASA means being committed to facilitating a safe space for AAPI students to openly share their stories as people of color. As a president, my goal was to have AASA as their voice to express these stories, whether it is through events or general body meetings. AASA strives to shine a light on AAPI traditions and stories to educate the community beyond campus.

Madison: As an officer, my priority in joining AASA was to help facilitate an accepting environment and allow our organization to be open to anyone at TU who is interested in learning more about Asian culture.

Lian: For representation of Southeast Asia, especially from my small ethnic group. My position gives me an opportunity to showcase and represent. 


How has your heritage shaped the person you are today?

Theresa: I believe there is a stereotype about Asians being overachievers and that they can attain anything from their hard work. While that may be true for some, I would be lying if I said I did all of those. My heritage has taught me to be persistent with my work and always approach projects, work, and even people with genuine intentions. Overachieving is one thing, but to be persistent while having genuine intentions outshine overachieving.

Madison: I value the art of food and how it connects people of different cultures. I think being Viet has helped emphasize my love for food and the need to explore the never ending flavors I can encounter!

Lian: My heritage is my entire identity. It is the basis of how I think and what I believe in. It was difficult growing up having to blend between American culture and Zomi culture; I have since learned to balance the clash. I grew up with my ethnic church and I am still connected with my heritage through the church and the people I hang out with from it. 


Does your family have any traditions that are especially important to you?

Theresa: One of the most important traditions is celebrating Lunar New Year, which usually occurs around January or February, depending on the lunar calendar. We wish each other good luck for the new year and receive red envelopes with money inside! We also eat good food together and watch lion dances to ring in the new year.

Madison: One thing that has always stuck around was my dads spring roll night, it’s one of my favorites with my step moms peanut sauce of course.


What is one activity or dish from your culture that you think everybody should try?

Roxanne: Kinilaw is a lesser-known Filipino dish everyone should try! It is similar to ceviche and was one of my favorites growing up. I always associate it with my dad’s delicious cooking. 

Theresa: Many people know what Vietnamese pho is but not many know what bun bo hue is. Bun bo hue is a spicy beef noodle soup that is a comfort dish that can hug you the moment you eat it. The broth is flavorful and the toppings add to the flavor of the broth. I have never heard of anyone not liking bun bo hue. 

Madison: Vietnamese coffee!!!!

Lian: Mohinga— it is a rice noodle and fish soup made generally with fish sauce, fish paste, ginger, banana stem, lemongrass, onions,and garlic.


 What do you hope to see for the Asian community in coming years?

Roxanne: I hope for greater acceptance of the Asian community so that younger generations are raised in a society that is free of discrimination and encourages a bright future for them. 

Theresa:In the near future, I hope to see more young Asians come out of their comfort shells and learn to speak for themselves when they feel it is right. Traditionally, Asian families have been raised to keep quiet to avoid conflict, but in political and social climates these days, the Asian community has learned to break those customs and stand for what is right! With this, we can break the stigma that we cannot fight back.

Madison: I would love for there to be less expectations of the Asian model minority, especially at college. We’re all here to get an education!

Lian: I hope the Asian community grows in numbers and that we continue to love and support each other. I hope there will be representation in all aspects of society. 


Do you have any favorite sources or references that you would recommend for someone wanting to learn more about your heritage?

Theresa: There are an overwhelming number of sources for those wanting to learn more about Asian heritage! The public library is a great place to start, as well as organizations in the local community, such as the APIDA (Asian Pacific Islander Desi American) to learn more! Their Instagram is @apidatulsa.

Lian: It is a news outlet that tells the latest stories both from America and Burma. Their FaceBook link has the latest infographic on current events as well as the latest informational videos.


Thanks again to Roxanne, Theresa, Madison and Lian for sharing with us! To learn more about how you can celebrate AAPI Month and support local Asian Owned Businesses, visit