A portraiture of Asian experience
Let's Talk! is pleased to open this year's conference with 6 select stories from AAPI graduate students representing campuses from across the Boston area. Each speaker will share their story in 5 minutes. The theme of each story is mental health and how it has affected the speaker's academic careers and their feelings of success.
These voices and experiences embrace a wide variety of identities and mental health experiences. We hope that both speaker and audience will learn from each other in what is sure to be an emotionally gripping experience.
Sukhmani is the Director of Community Outreach at the MGH Center for Cross Cultural Student Wellness and is a MPH candidate at Boston University where she plans to specialize in Community Health with an emphasis on Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders. Prior to her time in Boston she worked in the Behavioral and Neural Genetics Lab at UCSB researching the neurobiology of addiction and the underlying neural mechanisms and biology of mental illness. She has spent the past two years immersed in Asian mental health care and advocacy. Through community engagement and cross cultural education, she hopes to empower individuals to actively participate in their own treatment. By working to educate both the public and medical community she hopes to ameliorate the stigma attached to seeking treatment and make quality care accessible to all.
Erica was born and raised in the East Bay Area in California before moving to the East Coast to pursue undergraduate studies at Princeton University. She is currently in the chemistry PhD program at MIT with the eventual goal of conducting basic research in the pharmaceutical sector, followed by teaching high school students.
Having grown up with a culture of silence around mental health, Erica first began sharing her own struggles in college through a series of photo campaigns. A strong proponent of mental wellness, especially among the college and graduate student community, she currently serves as an MIT ChemREFS, a peer resource trained in conflict mediation and stress management. In her spare time, she enjoys dancing (read: flailing around on stage), baking (read: setting off fire alarms), and picking up new hobbies (read: having no idea what she’s doing in life).
Jobi was born and raised in Hong Kong before completing his BA and MA in Linguistics in the UK. He then went back to Hong Kong and taught both local Chinese students and ethnic minority students from South Asian countries. During his time as a high school teacher and administrator, he realized the limitations of his role, lack of cultural sensitivity, and limited resources on mental health in the exam-oriented learning environment.
For a career change, he earned an MA in Psychology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and worked as a research assistant part-time on projects involving individuals with depression and schizophrenia. He is currently a second-year PhD student in School Psychology at Northeastern University, doing research on behavioral assessment and international student mental health in the hope of bringing about systems-level changes both in Hong Kong and in the U.S.
Aalia grew up in New York City and studied psychology in her undergraduate years. As an undergraduate, she obtained a job as a Community Support Professional at AHRC NYC, which entailed of assisting adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to become independent and live more fulfilled lives. During this time, she also volunteered at NYU Lutheran’s psychiatric inpatient unit, assisting and participating in creative arts and drama group therapies. Through her experiences working with multiple diverse populations, she established how important it was to incorporate culture.
After receiving her bachelors, she was accepted into Chestnut Hill College’s Clinical Psychology Psy.D. program. She is grateful that the program places a significant emphasis on multiculturalism since she, herself, identifies as both Pakistani and Mexican. Aalia is currently a first-year doctoral student, and her interests are to obtain more experience with diverse populations, especially with those who are biracial and struggle with their identity. She believes it is vital to incorporate context and background when treating mental health issues in such a blended nation.
Kelly was born and raised in Queens, New York City before attending Northeastern University in the fall of 2011. She is currently in her clinical rotation year of pharmacy school at Northeastern University and will be receiving her doctorate this May. During her time as an undergraduate student, she was heavily involved in the Asian American community, most notably serving as a co-chair for the Asian American Students in Action (AASIA) mentoring program for first year students. Through these experiences, she developed a passion for mentorship and leadership development in the APIDA community.
Through personal hardships and frustration with the lack of discussion involving Asian American mental health, Kelly went on to develop mental health workshops at Northeastern’s Asian American Center led by a therapist from the University’s Health Center. She hopes to create more spaces for undergraduate students to feel comfortable about opening up about their personal and cultural barriers regarding mental health. Kelly wants to continue to use her personal narrative to promote the mental wellness of other students and peers.
Michelle is currently pursuing her second Master's degree in Mental Health Counseling at Boston College Lynch School of Education. She studied Intercultural Communication at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education and had taught at high schools and, most recently, Northeastern University. She is also the founder of PiPELINE Education, a non-profit organization that supports students' long-term learning.
As one of the organizers for the Let's Talk! in 2017, Michelle co-led a breakout session, "Lost in Translations: How to Better Understand Your Bicultural Child," tailored for Asian parents who are raising bilingual and bicultural children in the U.S. She acknowledges the impending need for initiating discussion around emotional well-being in Asian/Asian-American communities. At this year's conference, Michelle will be openly sharing her narrative as a therapist-in-training in hopes to positively reframe struggles without pathologizing the distress involved in one's experience.