The Origins of the Rising SEAs Delegation
Dylan Tran is a graduating senior at the University of Washington. While interning with the Southeast Asian American Education Coalition (SEAeD) as a sophomore, he had the idea of bringing UW Southeast Asian Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) together. To appeal to a broad spectrum of students among over 10 SEA RSOs on campus, he began a campaign to reinstate an event known as the Rising SEAs conference. Begun in 2012 with UW funding, Rising SEAs is a one-day conference designed to encourage, motivate, and empower Southeast Asian students to pursue higher education, as well as to give them the opportunity to visit the University of Washington. Funding cuts meant that the conference had been on hiatus for a number of years. The idea of re-establishing it was born as an outreach effort towards underrepresented Southeast Asian communities.
In 2018, Dylan and a number of other UW students from various SEA RSOs, along with SEAeD and tremendous community support, organized and paid for the conference themselves, hosting it in the HUB and other venues around campus. Over 200 middle and high school students attended. The success of, and need for, the event kick-started the formation of the Rising SEAs Delegation. The delegation focuses on members of the underrepresented Asian community because of the barriers facing them in pursuing higher education.
Bringing Southeast Asian RSOs together
The delegation is bringing members of the different RSOs together by planning and hosting events that promote Southeast Asian cultures. Dylan notes that the point is not to establish a new RSO, rather he envisions it as a platform for other RSOs. As an example, the delegation’s first event since its formation in 2018, “SEA Unity Kickback,” invited members of all SEA RSOs on both the Seattle and Bothell campuses for an evening program complete with dinner and bubble tea. Over 70 students attended, along with representatives from OMAD’s Multicultural Outreach and Recruitment, Shwe Zin and HtooShar Mon. Dylan and Jessica Do, of the Vietnamese Student Association, served as MCs.
Speakers at the event discussed how the university can reach out to more underrepresented Southeast Asian communities, as well as improve the well-being of current students. The Rising SEAs Delegation also invited ASUW candidates to attend, and many vowed to address the concerns of SEA students if elected.
Southeast Asian RSOs also had an opportunity to introduce themselves to the crowd. Among participating RSOs were the Vietnamese Student Association, Khmer Student Association, Burma/Myanmar Student Association, and Cham Student Association. Some RSOs used the opportunity to showcase their cultural heritage, such as members of the Khmer Student Association (KhSA) who performed a traditional dance.
Following dinner, KhSA President Ammara Touch led a series of games designed both as ice-breakers and prompts encouraging participants to continue their interactions in the future. Ammara asked attendees to brainstorm about topics such as unity and think of problems they shared in common, around which they could unite in advocating for change. To make it more interesting, participants’ seats were shuffled and each participant was asked to contribute his or her idea.
Dylan brought the event to a close by thanking the officers of the Rising SEAs Delegation, the RSO members who participated that evening, and reflecting back on the delegation’s beginnings. Hopefully, the Rising SEAs Delegation will continue to promote the underrepresented Southeast Asian community long into the future.
Article by Lucky Agung Pratama