School News

Q&A: Checking in With Three Asian American Business Association Members for Asian American and Pacific Islander History Month

By Bridget Vis

The Asian American Business Association at the Ross School of Business is a close-knit and diverse community of members brought together by their cultural background.

For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May, three MBA students in AABA answered questions about being a member of the organization and how it has contributed to their Ross experience. They also discuss how they have been impacted by the recent rise anti-Asian racism and how the Ross community can support the AAPI community.

Claire McLeland

Program/Year: Full-Time MBA ’22

Summer Internship: Intuit, product manager

Post-Graduation Career Interest: Continuing in tech

How has being a member of AABA contributed to your Michigan Ross MBA experience?

The AABA has heart. In a year where it was very difficult to connect, I found a sense of representation, kinship, and belonging in the AABA. 

I’m Vietnamese, and I’m biracial. Folks like me are often made to feel like we do not belong. Rather than celebrating the diversity of our experiences in multiple cultures (an experience all AAPI folks and immigrant communities share), we’re often treated as islands — unclaimed by either community. That’s an alienating experience, and it was so refreshing not to experience that in the AABA. No one sought to qualify my Asian-ness or investigate why I did not fit a particular image of how they thought I should look or be. I think it’s because we understand that the AAPI community is made up of a huge diversity of backgrounds and experiences, and many of us have been made to feel that we weren’t Asian enough. We don’t want to perpetuate it. 

Which AABA events/programming have you enjoyed the most?

The fireside chats were what hooked me. Asian cultures can be very hierarchical and familial, and one benefit of that is that the speakers feel like an aunt or uncle who is invested in you and knows that they have wisdom and experience to share. I learned a lot from them. Sometimes, I saw these speakers step into surrogate auntie and uncle roles to dole out approval, tell someone they were proud of them, or delve into topics that our families might still be finding language for. It was a special thing.

How have you been able to celebrate and/or share your AAPI heritage as a Ross MBA student?

This spring, I made my mom’s phở recipe and had a big meal outside with some friends. As far as I know, there aren’t many Southeast Asian Americans at Ross (unless I haven’t met you yet — come find me! Let’s eat.) Seeing the diversity of AAPI experiences at Ross — including folks like me who might not have a great command of their mother tongue — helped me realize that there are parts of my experience that are new and unique even to my AAPI peers, which makes me motivated to share.

Chris Chang

Program/Year: FTMBA ’22

Summer Internship: PwC, financial advisory

Post-Graduation Career Interest: Consulting

How has being a member of AABA contributed to your Michigan Ross MBA experience?

By being a member of AABA, I have been able to meet some of the kindest and most helpful individuals here at Ross. Sure, I could have come across these individuals in other areas of Ross — such as the classroom, networking events, or social gatherings. But AABA provides a platform and simple connection – AAPI heritage. I have always felt more comfortable around Asian Americans because there is a certain connection most of us share (food, tiger moms/dads, being forced to play an instrument at a young age, etc.) The people I met have made the first year of my MBA experience enjoyable despite COVID and I know they will continue to do so for my second year and beyond.

Which AABA events/programming have you enjoyed the most?

Two events really stood out to me this year: The first event was the fireside chat with Soojin Kwon, managing director of the Full-Time MBA Program and Admissions at Michigan Ross. Whether on the school’s website, Poets&Quants, or even YouTube, Soojin is one of the first individuals any prospective student comes across when looking at Ross. She is unequivocally the face of Ross. So, seeing such an individual be vulnerable and share her stories was awe-inspiring and added onto the respect I already had for her.

The second event was the Support Group and Listening Session in response to the Atlanta shootings in March that killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women. Everything about this event was executed perfectly: the speed in which the event was put together; the format; the courage of everyone who spoke; the respect everyone came to the table with; and, most importantly, the support from our Ross community. Despite the event being virtual, you could feel the love and support from everyone in attendance.

How can the Michigan Ross community support the AAPI community?

I have been truly thankful for several classmates who checked in on me after attacks on AAPI individuals over the past few months. I believe Ross is a place where students, faculty, and staff all strive to be inclusive and mindful of diversity. Moving forward, it is more about staying educated and continuing to be inclusive. The AAPI community may have the spotlight on them now. But there are so many ethnic groups that still face racism to this day. I believe the Ross community will continue to be a place where racism will not be condoned and support, whether emotional, mental, or physical, will continue to be provided.

Michael Yee

Program/Year: Online MBA ’22

Summer Internship: Amazon, senior financial analyst

Post-Graduation Career Interest: Consulting

How are you celebrating AAPI Heritage Month this year? 

One of the ways I am celebrating AAPI Heritage Month is by continuing to learn about AAPI issues. My firm, Deloitte, invited AAPI speakers, such as Awkwafina and Karthick Ramakrishan (also a prior AABA fireside chat speaker), to talk about their stories and how their cultural identity plays a role in how they occupy and move within their spaces. It has been amazing to hear how these figures have given back to the AAPI community and has inspired me to find ways to do the same. I also celebrate AAPI heritage through food and sharing the dishes I grew up eating with friends and classmates. 

How has being a member of AABA contributed to your Michigan Ross MBA experience?

Being virtual this year both because of the pandemic and my participation in the part-time program, AABA has really allowed me to feel more connected to the Michigan Ross community. I really appreciate the comradery, teamwork, and advice I have received from the other AABA members. These are the individuals I look up to as student leaders and also future business leaders, and I feel very fortunate to call them my teammates and friends.

How have you been impacted by the anti-Asian racism?

The recent rise in anti-Asian racism has been really heartbreaking to witness and learn more about through social media and discussion with AAPI members. Although I have fortunately not been directly targeted, the recent events have made me more fearful for myself and my loved ones when we are out in public, especially when traveling to new places. I hope that with more awareness, education, and advocacy, we can fight against dangerous rhetoric and make our communities safe for us and our loved ones.

Learn more about the Michigan Ross Asian American Business Association