May is Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. The Asian Affinity Business Association (AABA), in collaboration with students and organizations across campus, is proud to share and honor the stories of our community members. We hope these stories showcase the history, richness, and diversity of the AAPI experience and inspire hope for a world of empathy, compassion, and courage.

Keven Wang (MBA 2022)

October 31, 2001.

For the first time in my life, I stepped foot onto a land I did not call my own. To give me a better education, my family immigrated from China to Canada, a country where we knew not a single soul. I still remember the evening we moved into our new home. We could not figure out why children with scary costumes were roaming menacingly around the neighborhood, or worse, knocking on our door and panhandling for candy. We were so scared that we turned off the lights and pretended not to be home.

Twenty years later, you may be surprised when I tell you that my feeling of being a stranger in a strange land has grown stronger than ever. Borders between nations may no longer divide us, but global battle lines are being drawn on issues like gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic, and political beliefs. No matter where I go, the world I see today is barely recognizable from the one I grew up in.

Only this time, armed with an HBS education, I refuse to turn off the lights in my house. I believe our differences are too important to just hide away, I choose to embrace tolerance rather than intolerance, and I will be the change I wish to see in the world.

Ryan Yu (MBA 2022)

I came to HBS yearning to give my California self an East Coast edge.

I’d lean into whiteness, walk a traditionalist path, and fulfill the dreams of my immigrant parents: total assimilation.

Alas, the exceptionalism at HBS compelled me to embrace my uniqueness—my tastes, my dogged optimism, my Asian-American heritage—minority qualities I thought of as weakness.

Today, I am the chef, creative director, and founder of Maison XO, an Asian-American sauce company inspired by world travel, Hong Kong heritage, and modern culinary fusion. Through the creation of XO, I learned of the incredible energy contained in our cultural histories; that heritage is not something to hide or wash away but to reconnect with and take pride in.

I am an ambassador of my family, hometown, and ancestral heritage. And my responsibility is to share what I love with the world.

Justine Lee (MBA 2022)

My AAPI heritage means:
Being the first person to leave sleepovers on Saturday mornings to go to Chinese school,
Packing rice crackers alongside fruit-by-the-foot in my lunch box,
Saving plastic bags and yogurt containers because you never know when you might need them,
Speaking exclusively English at school and exclusively Cantonese at home,
Having my friends say to me, “You’re basically white,”
and my Chinese peers ask if I’m “first gen or second gen.”

It also looks like:
Redefining and refining what it looks like to be a Chinese person in North America,
Having the opportunity to share my culture with others,
Being Chinese and Canadian at the same time,
and being as proud of one as I am the other.

Vi Mai (MBA 2023)

I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood in Florida. It wasn’t until college when I truly learned about the Asian American identity. It felt liberating. For the first time, I was able to put words to what I felt and saw growing up. Model Minority Myth. Perpetual Foreigner Stereotype. Hypersexualization of Asian Women. I felt heard and seen. My Asian American identity was no longer the butt of a joke. It wasn’t something I was hiding. Rather, it was an important aspect of myself that I embraced and was invested in learning more. Being Asian American continues to be a point of pride for me today. It’s how I connect with family and friends, it’s how I stay in touch with my Vietnamese heritage, and it’s how I live my life.

Jashin Lin (MBA 2023)

I take great pride in my Asian identity and I aim to embody our culture’s values of dedication, grit, and collectivism. We believe that actions speak louder than words. For me, these values translate into raising my younger brother in America, facilitating development of soft skills for international students through my startup Growbie, and building cohesive, inclusive communities at Harvard. My Asian identity has also helped me realize that nothing is ever perfect. There are many things we can kaizen, or continuously improve. For me, that means building Asian representation at scale by supporting one another to elevate our collective community. I urge all of us to blaze new trails and be that beacon of hope that sends the message of, “You can do it, we can do it, and we will help others do it too.”

Revee Rapallo (MBA 2022)

"You're not Asian. You're a Filipino." I was told.

The distinct Filipino values and commonly shared values in Asia formed my awareness. However, living in the U.S. and exposing myself to how others viewed my background has made me question my ethnic identity: Filipino but not an Asian? Hispanic Asian? Pacific Islander?

Suddenly, I felt that my claim to own my identity was stripped away.

Asian is not a monolithic racial entity, and we come from different geographies, languages, socio-cultural trends, beliefs, and lifestyles. We can be many things; we cannot be aggregated into a single persona.

I can check multiple boxes, but don't box me.

Filipinos in the U.S. might be the third biggest Asian immigrant group, but our culture has not diffused tremendously. Maybe, the Filipinos who came before me chose to mute instead of celebrating their identity.

I can claim my own identity. I want to wear my skin and tell you where I come from, my experiences, and my perspectives. I am here for your story; be there for mine too.

Jesse Lou (MBA 2022)


It’s barely 7am. My eyes widen as I see the gaggle of second graders that have congregated just outside my room, peering expectantly inside. Dressed in the standard issue blue camp uniform, they were eager for another day of activities at our summer camp for Dallas-area Asian American youth.

I was their camp counselor, and as a high schooler, I wanted to be like an older brother that taught them normal growing-up stuff.

I then went back as a teacher after college. This time, I wanted to focus on the seemingly banal growing-up-in-an-American-culture-that-I-learned-through-trial-and-error stuff. Together with other former counselors, we created lessons to ambitiously attempt to bridge their experiences with Asian culture at home and American culture at school:

  • Speech class: Learning to articulate an opinion in front of others, like why hot dogs are the superior cafeteria food in front of 30 campers.
  • Goal setting: Taking ownership of your extracurricular activities. You should decide how long piano practice needs to be, and whether it matters.
  • Negotiations: We tried running a simulation with BATNA’s and everything (just like we do at HBS) but unsurprisingly it didn’t go smoothly.

Now as I look back on my own Asian American identity, I realize it’s the mentorship and representation (in leadership, media, the workplace) all along the way that really made the difference, and how I hope to guide the next generation of AAPI leaders.

Sue Chuang (MBA 2022)

My mom always told me that I can't escape my heritage so instead of hiding it, I should own up to it. So, my parents were adamant that my brother and I learned how to speak Chinese. We went to Chinese language classes every Sunday for 12 years and I absolutely HATED Sunday School. I didn't understand why “learning my heritage” mattered when I was trying so hard to just fit in.

But then I started learning traditional Chinese folk dance. I was dazzled by the variety of styles and the beautiful movement. I loved dancing, but I was never confident about sharing this passion with others. Fast forward to college when I joined a Bollywood dance team and for some reason, the team decided it would be a great idea to include Chinese fans in our competition set. It was an absolute hit. As I stood on that stage, flowing fans in hand, I realized that my heritage is what makes me stand out and it is a beautiful thing to be celebrated and shared with others.