Stephanie Chang – Co-President of UIUC Taiwanese American Students Club

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

I have really come to realize just how complex and beautiful the Taiwanese and Taiwanese American culture is.

Who are you?

I am a rising senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign currently studying history and political science. Born and raised in a northwest suburb of Chicago, I grew up with my older sister, my two Taiwanese immigrant parents, and grandfather. Initially entering college under the intentions of being Pre-Med, I eventually switched and am now currently on the path to attend grad school to study history with a focus on Asian American studies. In my free time, I love to eat (LOTS!!), learn different languages (though not well), sing (loudly) and dance (frantically!) in the shower, but my passions lie quite deeply within the APA cause.

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

To be honest, the mission of the Taiwanese American Students Club (TASC) at UIUC is interpreted rather differently by each individual participant. What it means to be part of TASC and to be Taiwanese American varies so much on this campus- but that’s what the beauty is of being part of TASC and this community. It’s refreshing to have such diversity!

But for me, TASC is focused primarily on the development of the Taiwanese American identity and sense of APA community on campus and (ambitiously speaking) the world. I actually was not interested in being part of TASC initially- but through the encouragement of my roommate and other friends, I joined, and haven’t looked back once. I got on board with the position of cultural advocate, and through this experience, I realized that what people want to discover about Taiwanese American culture reached way beyond cups of boba, Taipei 101, dumplings, and night markets. What I found, instead, was a desire to really acknowledge, celebrate, and redefine what it means to be Taiwanese American. This past year, I was VP- Internal, which gave me the privilege to work much more closely with the various board members. I strived to motivate each individual to find their own voice and embrace this identity wholeheartedly.

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

The majority of my motivation is derived from working with other passionate student leaders from TASC and other APA and University organizations. Seeing how much some of my peers have accomplished for themselves, their RSOs (Registered Student Organizations) and the campus community, it motivates me to really push myself. Their visions, goals, and dreams only help me to define my own and impel me to become a stronger student leader. It is also incredibly fun working with such vivacious and dedicated individuals- it makes all of my hard work 100% worth it! I also really love working with younger, newer members. Their budding passions and excitement motivates me to keep an open mind and serve as reminders that there is greater change to come!

As for UIUC TASC, I hope to develop an organization that will consist of ALL members (this being board and general members) that are motivated individuals to make change. While I don’t really mind whether or not this change is APA focused or not (though it would be very nice if it was), I just want the participants to become inspired by our organization to discover their own passions and go change the world!

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

I would really also like UIUC TASC to really take on the role of a trailblazer. While currently the APA community is most definitely growing, it still has quite a way to go. I feel UIUC TASC has great, great potential to embrace its role as a leader in this revolution and begin to break down the restrictive norms and societal constrictions we face as a minority population in the US. I want TASC to become the instigator, the challenger that crushes those social boundaries as we accept our strength as Taiwanese and APA youth.

Why are you proud to be of Taiwanese heritage?

My Taiwanese heritage is something that is very special to me. As a second generation Taiwanese American, I recognize the difficulty in coming to terms with dual/ multiple identities. However, through my own personal cultural growth in these past three years, I have really come to realize just how complex and beautiful the Taiwanese and Taiwanese American culture is. My challenge to all Taiwanese Americans out there: embrace this complexity! It will only prove to be an incredibly rewarding and enriching decision that will undoubtedly strengthen you as an individual.

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

Taiwanese America, I think, has a beautiful and promising future. Through my experiences on the UIUC campus, I have witnessed the great development of the APA and Taiwanese American identity. It’s very inspirational! There is incredible strength that lies within this community and as more and more individuals begin to discover its potential, it only continues to grow. While some people fear talking about race, ethnicity, and diversity on a deeper level, I only see a developing desire to delve in and reclaim our identities within this community. Go Taiwanese America! I’m excited to see what changes the future has in store.

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