A Place to Celebrate

Photo of Emily Chew and Shusheng Hu, co-chairs of the Asian Network at Yale.
Emily Chew and Shusheng Hu; Photo by Robert DeSanto

A supportive community offering a connection to new friends and opportunities for service — that’s what drew both Emily Chew and Shusheng Hu to join the Asian Network at Yale (ANY) in the early days of their careers at Yale. Now, as co-chairs, they have continued to strengthen this community and broaden its reach — to serve their colleagues, their families, and the community around them.

Yale’s affinity groups are supported by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, under the leadership of Deborah Stanley-McAulay, associate vice president of employee engagement and workplace culture. This is the third in a series of interviews with affinity group leaders, volunteers who are chosen by their peers for two-year terms. The first two installments featured the co-chairs of the Working Women’s Network and the Yale Veterans Network.

Shusheng, a collection manager at the Yale Peabody Museum, and Emily, a deputy director for education and arts at Yale-China, were each newcomers to New England when they arrived at Yale. Shusheng grew up in Wutai, Shanxi Province, China, and completed his Ph.D. at the University of Florida; he began working at Yale in 2008. Emily grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, and graduated from the Croft Institute for International Studies at the University of Mississippi. They joined Yale in 2017.

The affinity group provided a touchpoint of familiarity. “ANY is a great place for Asian colleagues to connect with others through their shared cultural heritage,” Shusheng says.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, ANY offered outdoor social opportunities, including a food-drive fundraiser and several hikes at East Rock Park. The group also recognized some of the unique stresses their community faced. “We organized a virtual event in response to hate crimes aimed at Asians during the pandemic,” says Shusheng, who began his term as co-chair in 2022. “We wanted to provide our members a forum for support and discussion.”

“I’m proud that ANY has come through the pandemic with its identity and membership intact,” says Emily, who became co-chair in 2021. “I’m excited to organize more family-friendly events and get people together to celebrate with food, music, and activities.”

In the following interview, Emily and Shusheng discuss how ANY has positively affected their lives and what they hope to accomplish next. Interview lightly edited and condensed.

How did you get involved in ANY?

Emily: When I first started working at Yale, I was new to New Haven. I wanted to get more involved in the community but wasn’t sure where to start. A colleague invited me to an ANY event. At the time, I didn’t know a lot of people, and it was an excellent way to find a community and learn more about Yale. It was easy to become a regular member because everyone was so welcoming, and then, in 2021, I was tapped to be co-chair. It’s been a great experience.

The affinity groups are important spaces for people to find their community and explore their identities and culture

Shusheng: In 2009, not long after I started working here at Yale, I learned about an ANY event and heard they were an active group. I immediately attended it and many others that year. Instantly, I knew ANY was and continues to be a great place for staff members of Asian heritage to connect with other Asian colleagues, to share thoughts and personal experiences and develop lifetime friendships. It’s a place to come where you can feel comfortable and have some fun.

What kind of support does ANY offer, and who is it for?

Emily: It varies depending upon the current leadership and what they feel passionate about. Pre-pandemic, there was a focus on career development, providing interviewing skills, and resume building or talks with Yale colleagues who have grown and thrived here. Other years, it’s been more about social events where our members can celebrate our culture and be around others who understand its intricacies. This year we want to provide a space for people to feel safe, gather in person, and have fun.

Shusheng: We welcome any Yale staff or faculty member who has an Asian heritage or family connection or anyone who wants to learn more about or enjoy Asian culture. We have several committees that cover social and cultural events, community outreach and engagement, well-being, career development, and social justice. ANY provides a platform for Asians to share their cultural heritage and learn from other cultures through scheduled programs and activities. For instance, we have painting events, film screenings, and potluck dinners where attendees can relax and share favorite recipes.

How has your experience with ANY affected your career?

Emily: It has made me better at my job. Through my various roles on the community engagement and wellness committees and now as co-chair, I learned a lot of useful skills. I’ve applied those to my day-to-day job, including time management, how to run a meeting, and working with individuals with different personalities.

I’ve learned so much about other cultures…I have a richer understanding when I meet someone from a different background.

Shusheng: I enjoy engaging with members of the other affinity groups. I’ve learned so much about other cultures through these interactions. As a result, I have a richer understanding when I meet someone from a different background. Yale has a very diverse community, and we have researchers visiting from all over the world. When I give a tour of the collection I manage at the Peabody, I feel that I have a better grasp of different perspectives because of my exposure to other cultures.

What do you hope to accomplish, or what have you accomplished, as a chair of the affinity group?

Emily: In my first year as co-chair, we were still in the midst of the pandemic. I’m proud of how we kept everything going during that time and that I’ve helped maintain ANY’s identity as an affinity group. During my tenure, I’ve asked new members how they found ANY and learned that many joined for the same reasons I did — to meet new people and find ways to be more connected to Yale. Hearing that makes me proud that this group continues to thrive and provides a safe and welcoming space for the Asian community.

Shusheng: I would like ANY to continue working with the other affinity groups on coordinated events. I want ANY to become the bridge between the local Asian community and other local groups so that when we come together, we leave with a better understanding and respect for each other’s different backgrounds and histories. I also want to energize our members to volunteer locally. For instance, we hope to organize programs to assist the rangers at East Rock Park, with maintaining trails, trash removal, and general park cleanup, or to plant trees at Common Ground High School.

The ANY Steering Committee meets the first Wednesday of each month at noon; all are welcome. They host on-campus and online programming throughout the year that highlights Asian heritage and culture. For 2023, the focus is on local outreach, volunteerism, and in-person social activities. Visit the group’s website for news,  information about how to join, and a preview of upcoming events.