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Inspiring the Next Generation of AAPI Leaders

Highlights and take-aways from the Asian American Leadership Meet & Greet event
Image of panelists at AAAFSA event 2023

Members of the Asian American, Pacific Islander (AAPI) community are often stereotyped as “model minorities,” who excel in work and school. Although this commonly held misconception seems positive, it produces a false narrative and obscures the fact that AAPI employees are noticeably absent from leadership positions in higher education and other sectors of the U.S. workforce, according to statistics from the American Council on Education.

Last month, the Asian/Asian American Faculty & Staff Association (AAAFSA) hosted a conversation with several university leaders to explore this issue and inspire students to pursue high-level faculty and staff positions in their future careers.

Featured below are a few quotes from the discussion panel. Visit our Flickr album to view more photos.

image of panelists at AAAFSA event
From left: Thomas Chen,  Helen Wormington, Justin Samuel, Janet Huang, Vinh Nguyen, Mohit Mehta

On Leadership Style

 Janet Huang, Deputy to the President for Transformation Strategies

“If I’m in this leadership role, it’s important for me to make sure that everyone here at this university feels like they belong. The Change Starts Here plan is 95 pages long because it wants to make sure we look at and support every person on this campus. It doesn’t happen all at once because we’re such a massive university, but the role that I play is to make sure that it all gets looked at, and that it’s taken care of.”

Helen Wormington, Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives, Division of Diversity & Community Engagement

“I consider myself a silent leader. I’m not at the forefront of anything, and I choose to be that way because I’m all about community. When I’m chairing a committee, I’m always asking for everyone’s opinions and stories to share. The committee work we’re doing is going to be the best because everyone is bringing their value to the table.”

On Finding Meaningful Work

Dr. Vinh Nguyen, Associate Dean for Student Services; Interim Associate Dean of DEI, School of Nursing

“My career is a constant balance between means and meaning. When there is a lot of means but not enough meaning in my work, I have found both my life and my work to be empty. It’s always the meaning that has driven me to pursue the roles that I have pursued and am in right now. The roles that I have right now give me both means and meaning—passion for my work. I have often found that means usually follow meaning.”

On Asian American Representation

Dr. Justin Samuel, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs and Assistant Professor of Practice, College of Pharmacy 

“Sense of belonging is very important to me. South Asian American college students don’t have much physically on this campus that they see represented in themselves. So, after I finished my doctorate, I wrote a letter in part of a grant to create a garden on campus that represents them in collaboration with University Housing and Dining and the South Asian Institute—and it’s here! The South Asia Garden is near Jester—and to have a part of that is something I could do to support this kind of initiative. To use a plant analogy, you never know what seeds you’re sowing now that will bear fruit later, so it’s important to do anything in your area to help that garden grow.”

On Asian American Faculty Recruitment

Dr. Thomas Chen, Professor and Chair, Department of Mathematics, College of Natural Sciences

“Asian American scientists and faculty candidates are very ambitious, so if we want them to come here, we need to advertise UT the right way. It is very crucial that UT puts a lot of energy and effort into advertising very broadly the qualities of the university and Austin—the quality of life, quality of research and the university’s reputation. This would really help to increase Asian American faculty representation.”

More about AAAFSA

The Asian/ Asian American Faculty and Staff Association works to support and empower Asian faculty and staff. They host monthly meetings and events that encourage personal and professional development as well as community. Visit the AAAFSA website for more information.