Outside of the Carolina Inn Ballroom, the Asian American Center campaign team is celebrating. Some have tears in their eyes. Others are embracing each other.
The Asian American Center has just been approved by the University Board of Trustees. To the campaign team, it means the University has officially found that Asian Americans deserve a space on campus.
In order to establish a new center at UNC, applicants must submit a request for authorization to the Board of Trustees. At Wednesday’s University Affairs Committee meeting, the Board of Trustees unanimously authorized three new centers: The Asian American Center, the Center for Information Impact and the UNC Law Institute for Innovation.
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Robert Blouin presented the three centers to the committee.
“The amount of activity from students has been phenomenal,” Blouin said. “Understanding Asian Americans is fundamental to the American experience.”
The Asian American Center began as a student-led effort in May 2019, led by junior Sean Nguyen. The center, which hopes to open on north campus, wants to promote discourse and community building among Asian Americans at UNC.
Eugene Lao, a major donor to the campaign and the co-founder of the Asian Students Association in 1989, was in attendance. He, along with the rest of the room, stood to applaud the student leaders once the authorization was approved.
“A lot of people were asking questions we couldn’t answer until the University was behind us,” junior Lynne Chen said. “All the people who have donated before this meeting took a leap of faith.”
The next steps for the campaign are to fundraise as much as possible — $700,000 within a semester and $1.2 million by August 2020. Nguyen also wants to begin the search for a director -- one who will understand the diversity of the Asian American community.
“They’re aggressive goals, but it’s what we need to have a fully-resourced Asian American center in the first year,” Nguyen said.
The other approved centers were the Center for Information Impact and the UNC Law Institute for Innovation.
The Center for Information Impact, housed in the School of Information and Library Science, will serve as a center for innovation for data science and data literacy. The center is a collaboration between SILS, the Hussman School of Journalism and Media and the School of Law, with funding provided by the Knight, Hewlett and Luminate Foundations.
“It’s an intro for something later down the road,” Blouin said. “Carolina can be a unique place to be a champion for data science.”
The UNC Law Institute for Innovation will provide hands-on training for law students to provide legal counsel to entrepreneurs across the state. The North Carolina General Assembly granted a recurring $465,000 to the Institute, as well as more than $1.5 million from the William Rand Kenan, Jr., Charitable Trust.
After the Asian American Center's approval, Nguyen gathered his team in a circle, congratulating them on the culmination of months of planning. They went to dinner that night to celebrate.
“It’s a surreal feeling,” Nguyen said. “The last eight months have paid off, with the University finally recognizing how important Asian Americans are to this campus.”
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