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The Pan-Asian American Community House in the ARCH basement on Jan. 10. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

Following a three-year vacancy, the Pan-Asian American Community House has hired two new associate directors to fill the vacant roles.

The associate directors — Vicky Aquino and Daniel Hoddinott — will be responsible for “leading and developing initiatives that support student engagement and development, advising student organizations, working with undergraduate and graduate students, and driving the mission of PAACH forward,” according to Associate Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging Will Atkins. Aquino started in her position on Jan. 17, and Hoddinott will begin later this month.

Aquino comes to Penn from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where she served as Human Resources Coordinator and Development Operations Assistant. Hoddinott arrives from the University of Connecticut, where he served as Assistant Director for Honors Residential Communities and Programming. Prior to that, Hoddinott was also the Assistant Director of the Asian and Asian American Center at Cornell University.

The recruitment process began with posting the position on the Penn careers website, along with “utilizing various professional networks and groups focused on higher education professionals and those who have experience working with the Asian Pacific Islander community,” Atkins said. Input and involvement was received from both undergraduate and graduate students, along with various campus partners who work closely with PAACH. 

Students in the Asian Pacific Student Coalition were closely involved with the hiring process, participating in one-on-one interviews with each of the candidates virtually before narrowing down the applicants and selecting Aquino and Hoddinott.

Atkins, who led the search, reached out to various campus and faculty groups, including APSC, “asking us what our desired characteristics were and what we were really looking for in terms of the associate directors,” College junior and newly elected APSC chair Ashley Uppani said.

APSC played “a large role in pushing for the associate director position to get filled,” Uppani added. Uppani told The Daily Pennsylvanian that she remembers that the role has been unfilled her entire time at Penn, with the role being vacant for over three years. Most recently, PAACH director of 10 years Peter Van Do suddenly left his role at the center in September 2022, which sparked confusion among students.

During this time without associate directors, Finance, Operations, & Program Coordinator at PAACH Cindy Au-Kramer and PAACH intern Cat Polityllo have largely managed and continued operations.

“With numbers dwindling and us going down to two people, it was an insane amount of work [for Cindy and Cat],” Uppani said. “It’s very exciting that we have two new people on board. It’s definitely going to make things a lot easier for them.”

APSC — which falls under PAACH — represents over 20 student groups in the Asian community, including k-Beats, the Chinese Students' Association, and the South Asia Society. In addition to managing the administrative discussion and funds of these clubs, APSC is involved with the larger Philadelphia nonprofit world.

“[Aquino] has a solid nonprofit background specific to the Philly community,” Uppani said, “so we’ll definitely be collaborating with her a lot in terms of advancing those goals.”

In addition to working with groups on campus, PAACH seeks to collaborate with the Philadelphia community.

“We’re excited to see how the current new associate directors are going to navigate dialogue between various communities, because the Asian diaspora has resulted in so many different groups being represented under such a general label,” Uppani said.

APSC is looking forward to commemorating PAACH’s 25th anniversary next year. 

In regards to two associate directors being chosen to fill the position, Atkins said the decision represented “the need to support such a large and dynamic community.”

Additionally, the University has currently posted a position for a new director of PAACH, and the hiring process will occur this semester.

“I hope that [administration] continues to push for more permanent positions and more permanent roles in terms of PAACH and the other [Cultural Resource Centers]. Otherwise things don't get done,” Uppani said. She hopes the hiring of new associate directors is “one stepping stone, not the end-all be-all.”