Coming to Michigan as a naïve freshman, I never would have dreamed of identifying as an “activist.” What I originally believed I wanted out of my college experience was worlds away from my current path, but I wouldn’t change it for an instant. During Festifall, I was persuaded to join United Asian American Organizations by a senior who has since become one of my greatest mentors.

It was through UAAO that I discovered social justice, activism and the disparities facing the Asian/Pacific Islander American Community. I learned about Vincent Chin, Japanese-American Internment and the A/PIA identity. Learning about my heritage as not solely “Asian” but “Asian American” has given me a newfound sense of purpose and inspiration. Additionally, this has led me to become actively involved with our on-campus community.

During my sophomore year, we started planning the Midwest Asian American Students Union Spring Conference. The two-day conference consists of inspiring speakers, talented entertainers, professional development opportunities and an amazing banquet. The largest component of the conference is the amazing workshops planned that span topics from Gender Studies to “Redefining A/PIA.” MAASU, a national non-profit organization, is focused on A/PIA awareness specifically for college students. The organization is dedicated to helping college students develop their intersecting identities of students, activists and Asian Americans. We hope to stay true to the theme of “Magnify: Explore Yourself, Amplify: Inspire Others” as we prepare for the conference on April 6th.

As co-director of an event that impacts so many people, this experience has been life changing. While it hasn’t been without its trials and tribulations, MAASU has been an amazing experience that has led me to develop my passions. Not only have I developed my identity and lens as an activist, but I’ve also had the fantastic opportunity to become involved and meet other leaders in the community from a diverse variety of student backgrounds.

There’s a place for all activists here on campus, whether it be a freshman just starting to develop his or her passions, or dedicated seniors. Each and every one of us has the ability to find a cause that sparks a fire within us during our time here at Michigan. For me, it has been the A/PIA community. For others, it may be LGBTQ rights or tuition equality. I consider myself an activist and I hope many of you do as well.

We’re incredibly excited to bring the MAASU 2013 Spring Conference to the University of Michigan. With over 30 schools from across the country represented, MAASU will be an amazing experience for all those involved. Our Planning Committee encourages anyone on campus interested in activism, social justice or A/PIA awareness to learn more about MAASU by checking out the conference’s website.

Caitlyn Knoerr is a Public Policy junior.

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