Embracing diversity: The importance of cultural representation at VCU

Illustration by Daisy Nguyen.

Jessica Holgado, Contributing Writer

As an Asian American, cultural representation on college campuses holds a profound significance for me. When I walk around campus or sit in a classroom, seeing and hearing a multitude of cultural perspectives does not just enrich my learning experience — it makes me feel like I am part of a community that values every voice.

When cultural representation is prioritized, it fosters an inclusive atmosphere where students from all backgrounds can thrive. It is about visibility and recognition in a space where our stories are often overlooked.

Cultural representation also plays a key role in providing support networks through mentorship initiatives and community clubs. These connections are lifelines that help deal with specific issues we come across, like overcoming language barriers or breaking down the model minority stereotype. They give us a place to connect over shared experiences and find that sense of unity. 

VCU sets the bar high when it comes to cultural representation with over 40 cultural clubs led by students. Each group adds its own unique flair to the campus culture, making it a vibrant community where everyone can find their niche.

I have had the opportunity to join three amazing clubs: Filipino Americans Coming Together, Chinese Student Association and Vietnamese Student Association. These student organizations have shaped my years in college, molding me into the person I am today. 

Ever since I joined these clubs, I have met some of my closest friends through the big and little system, where new members get paired up with older members who are most similar to them. It is crazy to see how this experience has connected me with people who have turned out to be practically family. Stepping out of my comfort zone has brought me unexpected life lessons and personal growth. 

Being part of FACT has been a journey of self-discovery, connecting with my Filipino roots through cultural celebrations and discussions. FACT brings people together, not just through shared heritage but also through exciting events like pageants, talent night, karaoke and charity ball.

CSA and VSA have also opened up a whole new world for me. I dove into their traditions and customs through meetups and cultural events. Even the family I have met there is unforgettable. They have left me with so many cherished memories. CSA and VSA have given me a space to celebrate the beauty of Chinese and Vietnamese traditions with others who appreciate them just as much.

These organizations have had such a lasting impact on me. Annually, as the academic year winds down, the student organizations host a culture show that is nothing short of spectacular. It is entirely student-run, which absolutely blows my mind. 

The dedication that goes into putting together the show is immense. Students are involved in every aspect — from acting to creating the props, doing hair and makeup, managing backstage, handling media and so much more. They put months of planning into creating a captivating story that weaves together modern and traditional dance, fashion and other cultural elements.

The culture show is the highlight of the year that celebrates the community by sharing traditions with an audience that extends beyond VCU. People come from different schools to witness this celebration of heritage and artistry. 

As the final act of the culture show comes to a close, so does our year. It is a signal that we are at the end of one journey and ready to start another. The last event has wrapped, and now it is time for farewells. 

These clubs have really been the heart and soul of my college life. They have taught me so much about a culture that was once unfamiliar to me — I have learned a ton about myself. 

What I love about these organizations is how welcoming they are. It does not matter if you are there to dive deep into the culture or just to enjoy the festivities, there is a real sense of community that envelops you. 

Calling them clubs honestly does not quite do them justice. They are so much more than that — they are like a bridge to cultural discovery and understanding, pulling our diverse cultures together and creating a place that’s alive with inclusivity and learning.

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