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Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month

Meet Isma Khokhar, ADPAC director of special events
AAPI ADPAC student 2022

In honor of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we are shining the spotlight on Isma Khokhar, a biochemistry sophomore whose family lineage traces back to Japan and Pakistan. While growing up in her hometown of Houston, Texas, Khokhar was oftentimes the only Asian American in her classrooms. That all changed when she came to UT Austin, where she soon found her community within the Asian Desi Pacific Islander American Collective (ADPAC), a student agency within the Multicultural Engagement Center that provides leadership development and social justice training for AAPI students.

A memorable UT moment...“During my freshman year, there was an event hosted by ADPAC called YBO; it stood for ‘You Bring Out the Asian American in Me.’ The headliner was Eugene Lee Yang from Buzzfeed. It was very interesting because he’s so popular, but he gave a lot of insight into his experience growing up as a queer Asian American. It’s not fully like my experience, but I could relate with some of the struggles he went through. It was just a really nice moment for me to see there were more people who can relate to my own experiences.”

Living in between … “I’m half Japanese and half Pakistani. So my experience growing up as mixed has been very nuanced. I don’t necessarily fit in the Japanese culture fully, but I don’t necessarily fit in Pakistani culture fully. It’s more like I’m always in between. Also, as an Asian American, you’re not fully American, but you’re not fully Asian. That’s also the same kind of nuance; it’s always in between. You have to balance between two cultures.”

Finding balance … “I think joining ADPAC really has helped me come to terms on how to balance the two. But really, it’s just fine to be in between because the people at UT are very accepting. They’re very curious and want to know more about you and your history and your upbringing. So, I think that this has been a really comfortable place for me to embrace my own identity.”

A home away from home … “ADPAC is one of the agencies that are part of the Multicultural Engagement Center (MEC) here at UT. Basically the MEC serves as a resource hub for students, especially those who came from underserved backgrounds. In a sense, it could become like a home away from home for those students.”

Bringing the community together… “I joined ADPAC’S internship program, where I got to help behind the scenes, making  events that help bring the community together. Now, as the director of special events, I’m hosting the YBO (now called CultivAsian) a memorable event that I first attended.”

A mission to serve … “Through ADPAC, our mission is to serve, educate, empower and represent the Asian Desi Pacific Islander community at UT. We host workshops and events, and we also do leadership institutes and conferences to help bring the community together, and we engage with students about social justice work relating to the community.”

Rolling out the welcome mat … “I would tell any student who is curious about ADPAC to attend CultivAsian, our annual welcome program. It’s an event where all AAPI students can come together and intermingle, build a community and become a little bit more socially aware of what’s happening.”

Advice for undergrads … “Joining ADPAC is a great way to find your community. If you’re passionate about the AAPI community, I would say join us within the MEC — pop in and say hi!”