Students from all over the country are getting a taste of the diverse melting pot that is Queens as they participate in the Summer Institute, hosted by the Asian/American Center (A/AC) at Queens College.
From Sunday, July 25 to Saturday, July 31, the 17 students, between the ages of 18 and 25, are participating in guided neighborhood visits, workshops, lectures and discussions. The goal of the program is to teach the students about cultural diversity by exposing them to the many backgrounds that coexist in Queens, the most ethnically diverse county in the nation.
The Summer Institute particularly highlights the many Asian ethnicities in the area, including those from Korean, Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Tibetan, Nepali, Pakistani and Indo-Caribbean descent.
“The purpose of the program is to inform and expose these students to the cultural diversity and the very complex multicultural community we have in Queens,” said Madhulika Khandelwal, Director of A/AC and Professor of Urban Studies at Queens College. “It’s like a real, living, social lab where we can see this happening.”
The 17 students were selected from over 25 applicants, and while many are from New York, some are from states such as Washington, Michigan, Massachusetts and California. The students are staying in dorms at Queens College, and are participating in activities all week until a formal reception on Saturday.
The group of students come from a diverse background themselves, including many immigrants; both from Asia and other parts of the world. Many of them are majoring in Asian-American studies at their colleges, and will thus be able to apply the knowledge they gain in Queens to their schoolwork.
“In the summer institute, I want to grow and gain experiences through interaction and learning in a different atmosphere with those who are as passionate as I am,” said Malissa Lach, a student at the University of Massachusetts, in her application to the program. “Attending the summer institute will enable me to learn, grow, change and make changes.”
The A/AC was founded in 1987 to study Queens’ diverse culture and Asian-American community. The group believes that everyone, particularly young people, should learn about their own background and the diversity of their surroundings.
In addition to holding events for the community, they focus on research projects to analyze the experience of Asian-Americans in the community. They hope that the Summer Institute will help them develop their new Asian American Pacific Islander Community Studies curriculum, for which they received a $1.2 million federal grant in 2009.
“From the very beginning the Asian/American Center has been about the diversity of Queens,” said Khandelwal.