Steven Hsieh – Vice President of Taiwanese Students Association at Stony Brook

Stony Brook University, South Setauket, NY

For me, the future of Taiwanese America is an actual chapter in my Asian American studies textbook and not a sentence or two spoken in a semester of lectures.

Who are you?

I am a second generation Taiwanese American. Currently I am a sophomore majoring in Marine Vertebrate Biology with a minor in Asian American Studies at Stony Brook University. I enjoy swimming, Facebooking, and embracing my Taiwanese heritage.  At home, I speak Taiwanese, something I have done for as long as I can remember. I always considered myself a Taiwanese American since I was young, always telling people that I’m Taiwanese and not Chinese. During the past few years, I became more passionate about my Taiwanese identity, especially after joining Taiwanese American Next Generation (TANG) in 2008.

Tell us about your organization / project, your role, and its impact?

I volunteer for the Taiwanese American Association of Long Island (TAALI) and I am serving as the Vice President of the Taiwanese Students Association (TSA) at Stony Brook University. I started helping out at TAALI during the summer of 2008 as a counselor at the first year of TAALI’s 5 day culture summer day camp.  Since then I have helped at many of TAALI’s events, setting up, translating, and making the occasional slideshow, and finished my third year as counselor at the culture camp. I started getting involved with the Taiwanese Students Association when I first started college, going to the general body meetings and volunteering at TSA’s main event of the year, the Night Market. Even though I wasn’t on the TSA board, I tried to promote more interaction between TSA and TAALI by inviting TSA to TAALI events and trying to get Taiwanese families in the local area to try to come to the TSA Night Market.  Slowly I became more recognized as a dedicated member as attendance at meetings decreased. I was able to be elected as Vice President of TSA.  As a student leader of TSA, I hope to get more people to come to TSA and to make the club interesting enough that people will continue to come to our events.  I think that being a 2nd generation Taiwanese American will help bring some new energy and a new perspective to TSA and TAALI.

Where do you find your inspiration and motivation as a student leader?

I think that my inspiration as a student leader comes from watching my fellow Taiwanese Americans, such as the TANG staff and developers of TaiwaneseAmerican.org, do wonderful things and make great strides in the Taiwanese American community.  Watching these people working so hard both at the local and national level has motivated me to make a difference in my local community.

What is your vision for the organization / project and the role that it may play in the broader community?

My vision is a community of 1st and 2nd generation Taiwanese Americans made up from TAALI and TSA. I hope that the work I do for both TAALI and TSA will inspire other 2nd generation Taiwanese Americans in my community to embrace their Taiwanese American identity and help out in the community.  I also hope to see more interaction between the 1st and 2nd generations of my local community working together to promote both Taiwan and the Taiwanese American identity. I would like to, in particular, try and bring down the cultural barriers that separate 1st generation and 2nd generation college age students so that we can work together more easily in our community.

Why are you proud to be of Taiwanese heritage?

I’m proud to belong to a culture with a such a diverse background.  Taiwanese culture has been influenced by many other cultures to create its own unique blend. It has stood against so many obstacles and still remains strong. I think that this influence of other cultures makes us as Taiwanese more tolerant of other ideas because our own culture is also changed in some way. Embracing my Taiwanese heritage has helped shape my identity and how people see me.  Taiwanese are known as dedicated, hard working, and friendly people, and I hope that people will be able to view me the same way.

What does the future of Taiwanese America look like to you?

For me, the future of Taiwanese America is an actual chapter in my Asian American studies textbook and not a sentence or two spoken in a semester of lectures. I want people to be able to see that the Taiwanese and Chinese are two different groups, and I hope people can look at our unique community and appreciate all that we have accomplished. I also hope that 2nd generation Taiwanese Americans can be more involved and not forget their Taiwanese heritage.

Any additional information you would like to share?

Alongside being VP of TSA, I also serve as secretary of Tzu Chi Stony Brook Collegiate Association and I love bubble tea!

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