I decided to join the Asian American Cultural Center’s (AACC) junior intern program in the spring semester of my freshman year. This eventually led to my position as a senior intern the following year, which proved to be the highlight of my college career. This experience not only taught me how to logistically plan on-campus events, but allowed me to discover my passion for mentoring new Rutgers students. It also gave me the opportunity to facilitate conversations with those who wanted to make a difference by being involved with the AACC.
Most students do not have access to these kinds of mentoring relationships that can help guide them throughout their college years, which is especially important when coming to a school as big as Rutgers. Becoming a mentor taught me the responsibilities of being a leader. It allowed me to build one-on-one relationships [with students] and like the managers from my work study program [at the AACC], I wanted to guide and support these students through the challenges of their college years. As an alum who wants to pursue a career in human resource management, I realize now how important these experiences were in shaping my professional and interpersonal skills.
Looking back at my time at Rutgers, one project that I am most proud of is developing the junior intern program with my senior intern team. Our goal was to facilitate conversations though program planning in order to establish a constructive and supportive space for students to explore their identity. It was definitely a challenge to orchestrate the junior intern program; however, witnessing the lasting impact that resulted from our efforts was an incredible pay-off. Understanding that the programs that we developed were opportunities to educate and celebrate Asian culture is extremely rewarding.
The AACC is not only a second home to me, but a place that catalyzed my own identity exploration. All the cultural centers at Rutgers provide a supportive space to all students, and the AACC allowed me to reflect and discuss the embedded intersections of my identity. I think that it is important to have physical cultural centers available for any college student, whether or not they may identify.
Offering information that’s not taught in textbooks is extremely important. In classrooms, history is often taught through a single perspective, and it is easy to forget those who remain in its shadow. The centers bring attention to figures in history that many students were never made aware of. We learn to view history with a different mindset, one that is mindful of the diversity that has shaped our society. Being a Rutgers student and a senior intern for the AACC encouraged me to embrace and explore my identity, and to develop the skills that I will need in my future career. This is why I am proud to be a Scarlet Knight.
Patrick Lum graduated cum laude from Rutgers University–New Brunswick in May 2019 with a double major in human resource management and psychology, and a minor in organizational leadership. He was a senior intern, mentor, and manager for the Asian American Cultural Center, and the co-programming chair for the Asian Student Council.
For more information about the Asian American Cultural Center, please visit: aacc.rutgers.edu