KASCON Co-Sponsored by RISD
Katherine Chon, a Brown University alum and co-founder of the Polaris Project, leads a popular lecture at KASCON.
Renowned textiles artist Jeung-Hwa Park MFA 00 TX, an adjunct faculty member in Apparel Design, recently taught the art of silk painting as part of the Korean American Students Conference (KASCON) held at RISD and Brown University (March 22-24). On a sunny afternoon, Park set down containers of bright water-based dyes and showed a small group of Asian-American students how to apply bursts of color to sheets of luxurious silk. As the students worked, they shared personal stories about their backgrounds and family histories.
“It was so nice to see students bond while they talked about what it's like to be of Asian descent and living in the US,” Park notes. “They all felt really supported by their peers, which was just such an uplifting experience.”
KASCON is a three-day annual event that provides college students from across the country with an intellectually engaging forum to discuss issues pertinent to Asian-Americans. This year Brown University and RISD had the honor of co-sponsoring the 26th annual conference. “My colleagues have attended KASCON conferences for decades,” said Park. “As a Korean, it's exciting to have RISD host such a respected and well-known event.”
According to Michelle Ko 14 TX, an organizer of the conference and president of RISD’s Korean Student Association (KSA), the event brings together influential leaders from a variety of professional fields, who lead compelling workshops meant to inspire students to break stereotypes and pioneer change in their own communities. This year's discussions touched upon weighty topics such as assimilation, identity, self-actualization and globalization – issues that are typically not part of dinner table conversations.
“KASCON gives us the chance to relate and understand each other,” explains Ko. “And that understanding leads to empowerment.”
One of the most popular workshops at this year’s conference was a discussion led by keynote speaker Katherine Chon, a Brown University alum who co-founded the Polaris Project – the largest nonprofit in the US working to eradicate modern-day human trafficking and slavery. Chon started the organization as an undergraduate after hearing about a criminal case in which six South Korean women were forced to work in a brothel. Now working as a senior advisor at the US Department of Health and Human Services, she coordinates anti-trafficking initiatives with federal agencies.
“We learned that in order to combat human trafficking, we have to change bad legislation,” noted Julie Wan, a freshman at Colgate University who attended the conference. “Katherine explained that we have the power to do so. It's up to us to take action.”
Others were moved by a talk led by Adrian Hong, co-founder of Liberty in North Korea, an organization focused on preserving human rights and protecting North Korean refugees.
Michelle Ko was personally inspired by a workshop led by David Kim, a brilliant marketing professional who has soared to the top of the corporate ladder by leading branding projects for Anheuser-Busch and the US Mint. “I learned from David that you shouldn’t alter your personal style to please a client. You have to remain true to yourself,” Ko explains. “That’s good advice for young artists to hear.”