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In recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Booth students, alumni, and faculty are reflecting on their experiences growing up Asian American and what celebrating this month means to them. We’ll be sharing their reflections throughout the month of May. First up, George Wu, the John P. and Lillian A. Gould Professor of Behavioral Science. Check back weekly for new updates.

Professor George Wu

“AAPI Month reminds me to celebrate parts of my upbringing that have shaped me. It has a different and additional meaning this year. With the large number of tragic Asian hate crimes, I hope that our community can celebrate their ethnicities, while others will reflect on how they can support the AAPI community. It is hard to grow up in a world in which your parents and the way that they raise you is so different from that of your classmates. But please trust me—there will be a time when you will celebrate your heritage and desperately want to understand China, Chinese people, and Chinese culture.

“I grew up in suburban Connecticut. We were the Chinese family. Actor Simu Liu, who I recently interviewed at a virtual event for Booth students, published a letter to his parents in Maclean’s. While my experience of intergenerational challenges between parents and children was different from his, much in his account resonated with me. My parents, like his, did everything they could to make my life better than their life. I strive to embrace that spirit, not just in raising my children but in thinking of others.”

George Wu, the John P. and Lillian A. Gould Professor of Behavioral Science, has been on the Booth faculty since 1997. He was recently honored as the 2020 recipient of the Chicago Urban League’s Humanitarian Award.

John Meng

John Meng

“Growing up, I often felt that I had to choose between being either ‘Asian’ or ‘American,’ two seemingly mutually exclusive identities. It was as if the universe deemed that soup dumplings and apple pie could not be enjoyed on the same table or that there were only enough fireworks to go around for either the 4th of July or Chinese New Year. Well, too bad for the universe. I’m giving up neither soup dumplings nor apple pie.

“To me, being Asian American entails learning and embracing elements of both cultures. More importantly, it’s about synthesizing strands from each to create a unique identity that combines the best traditions, values, and ideals from both. No one should feel cornered and pressured to choose one vs. the other—AAPI month is a celebration of this freedom.”

John Meng is a current student in Booth’s Full-Time MBA Program. He serves as a co-chair of the Asian American Student Association.

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