Asia is the most diverse continent on earth, with 50 countries and more living languages than any other region of the world. That diversity and richness of culture is celebrated by Illinois State University’s AsiaConnect organization.

AsiaConnect is an association of faculty and staff members working together to promote the various Asian cultures and to represent the interests, needs and concerns of Asian faculty, staff and students. The group promotes communication and support among the Asian community, develops cooperative relationships in the academic community and with student organizations, and helps with recruitment and retention of Asian faculty, staff and students.

“AsiaConnect is very welcoming and a great way to get to know faculty and staff from different areas of campus,” said Christine Tsui, assistant director of Facilities Planning and the president of AsiaConnect. “People bring their cultural traditions and personal experiences together and that creates a great support network. It really helps new faculty and staff adjust to life on campus and in the community. I wish there had been a group like this in place when I first came to campus.”

AsiaConnect formed two years ago after informal discussions among staff and faculty members revealed a common interest in starting such a group. “I remember talking about this with Mayuko Nakamura from the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology,” said Tsui. “We both agreed that a group like this would be a great way to bring people together. We just needed some help in getting it organized.”

Discussions with Rick Lewis in the Dean of Students Office provided the guidance needed to help build the organization. “Rick has been a wonderful coach, and adviser, and is an active member of the group,” Tsui said.

The group has monthly forums on a variety of topics including Asian politics, economic and business issues, education, science and technology, popular culture and sports. Past presentations have included discussions of relief efforts in the hurricane-ravaged Philippines; challenges faced by Asian-American leaders; customs surrounding the Indian celebration of Diwali; and the traditions of NowRuz, the Persian New Year.

Forums this fall will cover China’s Three Gorges Dam and other architectural and engineering marvels in that nation and an overview of the Bloomington-Normal Japanese Sister Cities program. AsiaConnect will also host the 3rd annual Asian Film Festival in celebration of Asian-American Heritage Month, in the spring.

Food is often a gateway to explore and understand other cultures. AsiaConnect recently hosted its annual potluck dinner to welcome faculty and staff back to campus, an event which was well attended. The group will continue its tradition and host potluck lunch meetings on the fourth Friday of each month during the fall and spring semesters to bring together members, guests and the diverse culinary traditions of Asia. All members of the campus community are welcome to attend and to join the organization.

Find more information about AsiaConnect’s upcoming meetings and presentations, as well as membership details.