An online chat with Brandon Mita, Chair of Asian American Coalition Committee and Marc Blancada, President of Asian American Students in Alliance

By Alexandra Nam and Corinne Kodama, University of Illinois at Chicago AARCConnections


March 2006 – This year for the first time, UIC’s Asian American organizations have met collectively on several occasions to support each other and build community. With new faces stepping up and old faces departing as the year comes to a close, seniors Brandon Mita and Marc Blancada reflect on their involvement in UIC Asian American organizations:


Upon your arrival at UIC, what sparked your interest in Asian American organizations and why?

Marc: I knew that I wanted to be involved in some way. It did not necessarily mean getting involved in an Asian American organization, but AASIA’s mission spoke to me. I knew that in order to get to the next level as far as academically and in my career, character development (through student involvement) was important.

Brandon: I was getting involved with the Japanese American community in Chicago by helping out with the Japanese American Service Committee and the Sansei Yonsei Athletic Association’s annual basketball clinic, so campus organizations were next.


How did you become leaders of your organizations?

Marc: AASIA officers encouraged me to step up and take more responsibility in the organization. They believed in me and they knew that this would help me get to where I want to be. But I knew the past leaders did such great jobs and it was intimidating.

Brandon: Haha. Marc sounds like me. [high five] For me, two senior members of the organization approached me and encouraged me to take the Chair position. But I didn’t know if I could live up to the fantastic job that previous chairs did.


Looking back, what changes have you seen at UIC?

Brandon: Recently Asian American organizations have worked together on a larger scale, AARCC was opened, and the community is learning what challenges Asian American students face on campus.

Marc: I agree with Brandon, the Asian American community is becoming more visible, although slow in doing so. The AARCC has opened up more opportunities for students to get involved. However, I am concerned about the amount of people stepping up, or taking leadership roles for the Asian American community, it seems like it is getting smaller every year. I’ve come across many who have wanted to take a more active role, but then simply stopped due to other priorities such as academics.


So what do you envision for the future of Asian Americans at UIC, what still needs to be done?

Brandon: I think Marc hit it on the head: recruitment of strong leaders is an important task.

Marc: I want for our organizations to become cemented into the UIC community. I wish for them to become larger and seen regularly on campus. What needs to still be accomplished is to have Asian American Studies here at UIC. That will be up to the new leaders who choose to step up. We will also do our part to facilitate that and cater to those who need us.

Brandon: It really takes active recruitment through people going out and talking it up to individuals face to face—people react when there is something to react to. We need to create some sort of hysteria here, to get students interested in the problems Asian Americans face at UIC socially and politically.


If you could do it over again, what would you do differently?

Marc: Speak out to the UIC community more. … as far as public speeches at events that sort of thing, about Asian American issues at UIC, and simply to empower younger students.

Brandon: That’s awesome. You still can, you know, you have another year. I would have joined AACC my freshman year instead of sophomore. I could have learned so much faster and I wasn’t doing as much when I was a freshman. I also would have switched to political science much faster instead of torturing myself as a civil engineer. It would have saved my GPA and my sanity.


What would be your advice to younger students?

Brandon: Get involved on campus and learn from leaders like Marc who know the value of hard work and dedication to a valiant cause.

Marc: You may not feel like you can make changes or that what you say doesn’t matter or that you don’t think you can be “that” person, but if you try and are caring for what you believe in you can accomplish things you may have never dreamt of.


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This article originally appeared in AARCConnections, the newsletter of the Asian American Resource & Cultural Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and is posted here by permission. Please do not reprint without seeking its permission. Corinne Maekawa Kodama is Associate Director of the AARCC and editor of AARCConnections.  Alexandra Nam is AARC Student Outreach Coordinator, and a recent UIC Chapter Advisor and Midwest Regional Coordinator of the non-profit group Liberty in North Korea (LiNK). is committed to presenting diverse points of view. However, the viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at IMD.