Asian Student Union hosts first event as student organization

Lecture and panel discusses grief after traumatic events

Ryley Wilcox

The Asian Student Union (ASU) hosted a lecture and panel discussion titled: Death, Collective Grief and Cultural Competency on Friday, Feb. 24.

The lecture was led by Yan Ciupak, associate professor of sociology, with Caroline Cheng, assistant professor of social work, leading the panel discussion that followed. 

The ASU held the lecture in response to the feelings students at NMU had after hearing about mass shootings in Asian Pacific communities in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, California, earlier this year.

The ASU was inspired to hold the event based on this feeling of loss, said Viactric Thu, ASU co-president.

“Personally to my experience, I come from a country in which battle and fighting and losing people in that way, has just become normal,” said Thu.

Thu is a senior studying international relations, who originally attended NMU as an exchange student from Myanmar. She later returned in the fall 2022 semester to complete her education at NMU.

“But here, I heard people shoot one another and they lost their family, not even in a battle,” Thu said. “I feel like I experienced something different, but the loss is the same, and I think here in the United States you hear about people hurting each other with a gun.”

Thu and the other members of ASU hoped that whatever outcome participants had from the lecture and panel, that they were able to learn something.

“People will have different experiences and based on their experiences the takeaway can be different from one another,” Thu said.

The ASU asked Ciupak and Cheng to have activities to include in the lecture. Participants wrote various losses they experienced throughout their life down on a sheet of paper, they then folded it up into a paper airplane and sent it off. Another person from the audience picked up their paper and wrote a motivational quote, before returning it back to the author.

In addition to the professors, two licensed counselors were present at the event.

“I think it’s a very sensitive topic and the whole lecture can be very vulnerable for some people,” Thu said.

The ASU debuted at the Winter Student Organization Fair in January of 2023. The lecture and panel discussion served as their first event as a student organization at NMU. 

“I hope to have an environment where we feel empathy and we come together and we learn,”  Thu said. “When we come together, we feel more support from each other.”

The organization was founded for Asian American and Asian exchange students to share their experiences in a comfortable and safe environment on campus, which was founded by Thu and other Asian students at NMU. 

“I think I was the only one struggling with adapting in this new environment,” Thu said. “But, when I see them sharing their experiences, we’re the same. We have the same struggle, we have the same troubles sometimes.” 

Later this semester, ASU will travel to the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse to attend the Feast of the East, which will serve as a culture excursion for the group and feature a keynote speaker and entertainment.

“Being able to have a community like this at Northern, we not only feel comfortable and safe, but also that the school is supporting every minority and they care about it,” Thu said.