SOHAN GADE ‘23 (HE/HIM)
SENIOR STAFF WRITER
On November 10th, the Matthews Center and the Davidson Asian South Asian Pacific Islander Alumni Network (DASAPIAN) co-sponsored a panel discussing the Asian American/Pacific Islander experience in the workforce.
DASAPIAN was formed in 2021 in order to better assist the Asian American and Pacific Islander community at Davidson. DASAPIAN is an identity network, alongside the Davidson Jewish Network, Davidson Black Alumni Network, the Latinx Alumni Network at Davidson, and the LGBTQ+ Alumni Network.
According to its page on the Davidson College website, the organization’s two aims are to “support and advocate for Davidson College Asian/South Asian/Pacific Islander (ASAPI) students and alumni to attain and navigate servant-leadership leadership positions in their field” and to “create meaningful, lasting connections between ASAPI students, alumni, and the Davidson community.”
Assistant Director for Career Development, Kelli Robinson, expressed her excitement about the panel.
Alice Garner ‘24, a member of the Pan-Asian Students Association Executive Board, moderated the panel. The participants included former Davidsonian Editor-in-Chief, Amee Parbhoo ‘06, Brian Aoyama ‘09, and Zi Yang ‘16.
The session began with brief introductions. Aoyama was an East Asian studies major, working in San Francisco for a tech startup. He also commented on the way that Davidson allowed him to create his own major.
“I was one of those people who was always checking undecided on the college application boxes and then eventually I had to stop checking that…it was basically a way of saying [that] I really like anthropology, political theory and learning Chinese, and that became my major.”
Parbhoo mentioned her passion for international development as a political science major and economics minor at Davidson. She also mentioned her current role in impact investing.
“I am currently the managing director of ACCION Venture Lab impact investment funds so we invest in things like FinTech companies, financial technology companies, largely in emerging markets.”
The third panelist, Yang, mentioned his passion for finance and connecting his political science degree to his highly-accomplished career in banking.
“I started off with Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, as your typical sort of banking analyst. Nowadays, I spend my time doing corporate development, strategic investment for BlueCross BlueShield, in North Carolina, primarily focused on improving patient financial experience, improving access to behavior care,” said Yang.
Upon introductions, Garner asked the group, “How did Davidson prepare you to become a leader in your industry?”
All three panelists drew attention to the close-knit alumni network of the school. Aoyama added that his Davidson education helped him engage with new subjects easier.
“It gave me the confidence to learn new things from scratch,” said Aoyama, when discussing his experiences while studying abroad in China.
Garner proceeded to ask the panel about their experiences as minority students at a predominantly white institution. She said, “What advice do you have for navigating [this environment]?
Yang explained his approach of using self-esteem and embracing his culture.
“It’s important to [take] pride in my Asian heritage and Chinese heritage. At the same time, don’t view yourself as an outsider, you know who you are, you’re here [and] just as deserving […]as anyone else [at Davidson],” said Yang.
Similar to Yang, Parbhoo mentioned understanding self-worth and the importance of self-respect. She reflected upon her experience as a South Asian student after the September 11th Attacks, referencing the unfortunate discrimination she faced on campus and in the town.
“It made me feel the need to be more vocal in a [different] way than I had expected. I would be going into school to represent who I am … and it just made me come out of my shell,” said Parbhoo.
Another question that Garner asked was “What advice would you have for others who want to set off for some more direction?”
Parbhoo talked about the fact that following a straight path is rare. “Don’t feel like you need to know your direction. As soon as you graduate, it’s going to change,” said Parbhoo.
Aoyama furthered Parbhoo’s point. “Coming from Davidson, you’re equipped with this toolkit,” said Aoyama. He went on to discuss his application of the “toolkit” in his career in consulting.
“I went into consulting and [was told] it is like liberal arts for business. That appealed to me because I thought I would like the liberal arts because I didn’t know anything about business. [I asked for] the core curriculum, and it was like Humes for business and case studies,” said Aoyama.
Garner’s last question was, “What resources or what steps would you recommend in terms of finding allies in your profession?”
The panelists agreed on the importance of networking. The panel concluded on a message highlighting the value of learning through others.
“Just think about it as someone is inviting you into their story and you get to follow along. That can be really interesting and take you to some unexpected places,” said Aoyama.