The Myanmar Student Association at the University of Indianapolis held their callout meeting on Sept. 8. According to senior business major and MSA president Hla Laithang, one of the goals of MSA is to preserve Burmese culture on campus, as well as to share it with others.
“Our goal is to preserve our culture on campus. I don’t want this [group] to be temporary,” Laithang said. “I know in the past there have been a lot of temporary Asian organizations, but I don’t want MSA to be one of those—I want this to keep going on. I want new, incoming freshmen to join and in the future be a part of the board members and just keep the MSA going.”
One of the ways Laithang said MSA’s board members are working to preserve their organization on campus is by working with underclassmen and showing them how to take their positions so that the transitional periods are not as difficult for MSA. She said the executive board has been recruiting interns, who can watch what board members do so they can take over after the current board members graduate.
Assistant Director and Title IX Coordinator CariAnn Freed said it is important for UIndy to have groups such as the MSA in order to give students a place to feel like they belong. Freed said this is particularly important for students who are from minority groups because UIndy is a primarily white institution.
“When it comes to going to college, it can be really hard in general, no matter who you are, it can be really hard to navigate growing up, learning new things, figuring out what you want to do with your life,” Freed said. “Doing all of those at one time can be really daunting and to do it in isolation can be even more daunting. For so many students on campus, it is important that they kind of find their thing, the thing that gets them excited, the thing that makes them feel like they belong.”
Laithang said her goal is for MSA to bring cultural awareness to UIndy’s campus. She said MSA can inform Burmese students about things going on in their home countries as well as bring awareness to non-Burmese students about the organization.
“We can bring more awareness on campus and to other students who might not know, and also bring our interesting and unique culture on campus,” Laithang said.
Laithang emphasized the importance of non-Burmese students becoming involved in MSA. She said the association is not only for Burmese students but also to create a community for everyone to recognize the culture.
“We’re just trying to bring more Burmese students on campus and recruit them. We also want to reach out to non-Burmese students,” Laithang said. “The point of us creating this organization is so that we can build community and put ourselves out there on campus, and ways we can do that is by bringing non-Burmese students to our organization.”
Freed said that one of the great things about UIndy being such a diverse campus is that students have the freedom to create clubs and organizations like MSA to preserve and celebrate their culture within the campus community.
“There are lots of students who maybe are commuting or maybe are coming from different schools or high schools and they’re not used to being around people that look like them,” Freed said. “The beauty of UIndy being so diverse and growing as a more diverse institution, is that we are able to create communities and create clubs and organizations that allow people a safe place to celebrate who they are.”