This week, the Pan-Asian American Community House narrowed down its search for a new director to four candidates.
Students have taken an active role in the search to replace former director June Chu, who left in September to take on the post of assistant dean of undergraduate students at Dartmouth College.
The announcement is taking place at a time when the cultural center is experiencing some difficulty without Chu’s leadership. Her absence has particularly affected programming relations within the Community House where she was instrumental in negotiating contracts to bring speakers to Penn’s campus, as well as organizing events such as the Asian Pacific American Leadership Initiative.
“Chu’s departure has been pretty rough on Sheilla [Cervantes] and Kusum [Soin] — the two associate directors at PAACH. It’s made guiding all the programs a lot harder for them,” said College senior Sining Zhou, a member of PAACH’s director search committee.
Zhou, however, added that the interim director Meeta Kumar, who is also an associate director at Penn’s Counseling and Psychological Services, “has been fantastic” during this transition.
Yet PAACH’s lack of a permanent director has left a gap in the relationship between PAACH and the University administration.
“Without June being here, it’s really hard to get across the potential needs of our community house to the University,” Zhou added.
Others feel the absence of a permanent director has placed an extra burden on the faculty that work at PAACH.
Kumar, for example, is splitting her time between both PAACH and the Asian Pacific Student Coalition, in addition to CAPS, Engineering junior and APSC Chair Michelle Leong said. As a result, “PAACH has been understaffed this semester” and Chu’s departure has been more noticeable.
In response to this deficit, the office of the Vice Provost for University Life organized a director search committee composed students and faculty, including College seniors Robyn Chan and Nicky Singh, in addition to Zhou. Both Zhou and Chan are members of the Asian American Studies Undergraduate Advisory Board while Singh hopes to draw from his experience as former chair of the APSC.
“We knew we wanted representation from Asian American studies so we were recommended students from … the undergraduate advisory board,” Singh said, explaining how the committee was formed. “And then [we wanted] students for the activist and organizational part of the committee which was largely why I was picked.”
In their search for a new director, the committee carefully examined character traits among the candidate pool. While the committee generally agreed on the qualities that an ideal director should have, Singh said he focused on finding a director that would be capable of restoring PAACH into a hub for Asian activism and maintaining the resource center’s role as a center for “helping Asian American students finding their identity.”
“We also wanted a director who would be able to support the Asian American Studies program even more, because the connection between the two [with PAACH] hasn’t been that strong in the past,” Zhou said who, along with Chan, co-chairs the Asian American Studies Undergraduate Advisory Board.
With the search narrowed down to four potential directors, the committee has invited students and faculty to sit down with candidates at an informal session to ask questions and bring up any concerns they may have.
“We want to make sure that the students feel comfortable with the candidate because ultimately, whoever ends up being the PAACH director is going to be someone who is constantly mentoring students and fostering the home community within PAACH,” Chan said.
This story has been updated from a previous version to reflect that the search committee was formed by VPUL, not PAACH itself, and that it consists of both students and faculty.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.