Daphne Hong – Past President of UT Taiwanese American Students Association

UT Austin, Austin, TX

The Taiwanese American identity is still something that is new in Texas. Most people identify as only Taiwanese or even Chinese, much less as an Asian American. I wanted to create an atmosphere where they could bond, have fun events, and develop their identity.

Who are you?

I am a 2nd generation Taiwanese American born and raised in Arlington, Tx. When I was younger, my parents would let me watch a lot of Taiwanese dramas and Chinese historical dramas. I fell in love with my culture and language.

Currently, I am a 2nd year graduate student in UT Austin College of Pharmacy. When I’m not studying, playing, or doing something with my organizations, I am always searching for food. It’s so fun going around Austin, trying out the different hole-in-wall restaurants!

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

I’ve been historian, vice president, and president ’11-‘12 for Asian Pharmacy Students Association; social chair for APhA, and taken officer roles for many other organizations, but the organization that had the most influence on me has been the UT Taiwanese American Students Association (TASA).

When I first joined TASA my freshman year, it was a very small organization, consisting mainly of a small group of friends. I fell in love with that close-knit group because we brought together our Taiwanese identity and it was an excuse to get together and have fun. Throughout the years, I’ve been an Junior Officer, VP Internal (for 2 years), and President and I’ve loved every minute of it. My biggest accomplishment would be coordinating both the 6th and 7th Annual Night Market, which showcases the night market culture in Taiwan. After a lot of hard work and help from my team members, we were able to increase the attendance from 500 attendees to over 1000 people, triple the budget, add a photo booth station. Following that, I advised the last two night market coordinators, who have now added the green onion pancake stand/shaved ice station.

The Taiwanese American identity is still something that is new in Texas. Most people identify as only Taiwanese or even Chinese, much less as an Asian American. I wanted to create an atmosphere where they could bond, have fun events, and develop their identity. I wanted TASA to be a place where people can make lifelong friendships, especially since that is what it had done for me.

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

From my involvement in TASA, the most gratifying moments for me would occur at the height of our night market events. Just standing there and seeing the crowd enjoy themselves makes me realize how many people we reached out to and introduced to Taiwanese culture. It makes me feel like I made a contribution to the lives of others by putting out such a large scale event that they enjoy. Since I stopped coordinating Night Market, I have continued to stay involved as an advisor to the event coordinators after me. I make sure to share how I felt in those moments when the event is in full swing and I’m finally able to breath that sign of relief because we once again pulled off another great event!

In addition to that, I love giving back to the organization that helped me develop myself as a leader as well as the one I met many of my close friends through. I knew from the very moment I joined TASA that I would love being part of it, so I applied for a junior officer position. Almost all of my UT friends throughout my undergraduate years have been TASA members and I’ve learned so much from each and every one of them! I wanted to do what I could for TASA and help out by being a leader. I wanted to give the younger, incoming students what I was given and provide them with as great an experience as I had.

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

Although there is a significant student population that is Taiwanese at UT, many students become more involved in other organizations due to the plethora of student organizations at UT. Due to this, TASA should continue to work hard at reaching out to other organizations on campus and in the local communities in order to promote Taiwanese and Taiwanese American culture even more so! TASA is a great resource to showcase our rich culture, delicious food, and amazing people. With our large scale events like the annual TASA Night Markets, we will demonstrate our Taiwanese heritage to all the Taiwanese students at UT as well as better educate and expose the uniqueness of our culture to the UT campus. I envision TASA to be an organization where lifelong friendship is made; people connected together by memories made in TASA and the bond of being a Taiwanese American.

Any additional information you would like to share?

Currently, my friends and I are starting up an Austin branch of the Taiwanese American Professionals (TAP) organization. We hope to create a community and network in Austin to connect Taiwanese Americans in their post collegiate years.

TASA website- http://studentorgs.utexas.edu/tasa/home.shtml

My friend, Peter Petrzala- TASA Co-President ’10-’11, and I started a Taiwanese food blogsite together!

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