Korean American student group aims to find community for ethnic minorities

Originally from San Diego, Sean Song grew up with Asian culture. Most of his friends in middle school and high school were Asian. They spent their time breakdancing, going to karaoke and eating. But when he moved to Colorado during his sophomore year of high school, this sense of community was nearly non-existent. As a junior at the University of Colorado Boulder, Song created the Korean American Student Association (KASA), a club that caters to students’ need for a specific cultural community.

“I wouldn’t say that just because we’re Korean we’re automatically going to be close friends and form a community,” Song said. “It’s the spread of our culture and it’s not like we’re only looking for Koreans. I actually prefer diversity. It’s what we all want.”

Many student, staff and faculty members at the university are aware of the consistently low number of ethnic minority students admitted each year and the problems that it presents on campus.

The university has a history of being predominantly Caucasian, despite the increasingly diverse nation. Administrators have worked to create a more inclusive community on campus.

“I would define the community at Boulder to be very accepting for the most part,” said Amethyst Brandin, a junior and Caucasian student. “I feel that Boulder is one of the most accepting places as far as race goes although the campus demographics don’t really reflect that.”

According to CU Boulder demographic data, 67.1 percent of the current students are white. Of the remaining students, 10.2 percent of the students have a Hispanic or Latino heritage, 9.5 percent are international students, 7.3 percent are Asian, 2.4 percent are African American. This isn’t a pattern just seen at the university. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2000, Colorado’s total population was 82.8 percent white, 3.8 percent were African American, 1.0 percent were American Indian or Alaska Natives and 2.2 percent were Asian.

With numbers like these, finding a cultural community that reflects one’s home environment can be a challenge. A survey done by the university saw 38 percent of African-American undergrads respond that they feel welcome on campus.

Campus organizations such as the Student Academic Success Center (SASC) works with low-income and first-generation students to provide academic tutoring and a multicultural community. It works to help students engage with others and to feel more comfortable in a college environment.

“I think that students look for a ‘home away from home’ when searching for a community on a campus as big as CU Boulder,” said Corinna Rohse, director of SASC. “That is to say, students seek a sense of belonging on a personal scale, starting with friends, interests, values and other points of connections that we grow up with in a family, but which we must re-create for ourselves as college students.”

For Song, finding his “home away from home” was limited on campus.

While clubs like Korean American Students at Boulder (KASB) and the Korean Student Association (KSA) existed, they did not appeal to Song’s sense of familiarity and community.

With few options left, Song and his friends started KASA.

“I enjoy my culture and my heritage, so that’s why I wanted to bring it here,” Song said.

Contact CU Independent General News Editor Kristin Oh at Kristin.oh@colorado.edu.

Kristin Oh

I am the copy editor and news reporter. I am passionate about social justice issues such as race relations and women's rights. I am from Colorado Springs, CO and studying journalism and media production.

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