Kelly Shih – Co-Programming Chair for Maryland’s Taiwanese American Students Association

University of Maryland, College Park, MD

Taiwan, to me, represents underdog strength, dynamic culture, culinary brilliance, urban excitement, rural austerity, and loving family. I love it, and there’s no where else I’d rather represent.

Who are you?

I am Kelly Shih, a sophomore majoring in Government & Politics and International Business at the University of Maryland, College Park. I am a proud second generation Taiwanese American. My mom and dad are a purchasing manager and computer engineer, respectively, and obsessive gardeners, collectively. My older sister and dad both attended Maryland also, so we are a proud Terp family! I love eating, singing, sharks, airplanes, and Snyder’s Honey Mustard and Onion pretzels.

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

As Co-Programming Chair for the Taiwanese American Student Association (TASA) at Maryland, I plan and execute the majority of events for our organization. TASA seeks to bring together the Taiwanese American community at our school, and well-planned events really showcase TASA’s purpose to the community. Events can be educational, social, or charity-related, but each one requires weeks or months of planning to be successful and memorable.

I am also on the Traditions and Programming Committee for our Student Government Association (SGA). Our committee takes care of event planning as well, but for the entire student body. These events include Crabfest, Homecoming, Haunted House, Spring Barbecue and more. The committee also seeks to perpetuate decades or centuries-old traditions at the University of Maryland. We also give presentations to freshman classes about university traditions to ensure that they carry on.

This summer I was a Political Intern at Senator Boxer’s office for the Taiwanese American Citizens League (TACL) and have taught English to kids in the Taiwanese countryside through the A.I.D. Program.

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

My inspiration to be a student leader comes from wanting to work with people and wanting my opinion not just to be heard, but implemented. The most direct way to affect the change you want, whether it be in national politics or your high school dance committee, is to be in a decision-making or decision-affecting position. I was involved in and assumed leadership roles in everything in high school, from class council to tennis to the school musical, because there was a certain way I wanted things to run, and the only way to ensure that is to take action. I also hate listening to people complain about things they could change if they made an effort. Be proactive, be efficient, and have fun doing it!

Why are you proud to be of Taiwanese heritage?

I took a plane for the first time when I was nine months old to go back to Taiwan. My parents, who immigrated here in the mid-80’s for my dad’s graduate degree, made such an effort to take my sister and I back as often as possible and to make sure we loved it. I have to credit my parents with instilling such a sense of comfort with Taiwan in us. Because when you’re little, you don’t care about politics or pride, you care about how much you fun something is. So my sister and I loved everything about it – my huge family, the karaoke, night markets, my grandparent’s rice paddy, mopeds, papaya milk, constant games of Big 2. Then, as we got older, we began to understand the pride. The pride of being from a small but resilient and determined nation. Of being in the unique situation of having to explain your country of origin to others, to have a 30-second political synopsis prepared. Of appreciating small victories – a pitcher on the Yankees, a director winning an Oscar – to put our heritage on the American radar. Taiwan, to me, represents underdog strength, dynamic culture, culinary brilliance, urban excitement, rural austerity, and loving family. I love it, and there’s no where else I’d rather represent.

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

It looks a little like Glee – where we will break stereotypes and assume more visible roles. And be dancing and singing while doing it! Well, at least I’ll be.

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