Shu-Yen Wei Hometown: Farmingdale, Maine
School/Major: Wellesley College/B.A. in American Studies | Ethnicity: Taiwanese-American | Other Language(s): Mandarin Chinese, German
On being Asian-American in politics: Politics has long been my civic activity of choice. However, I had always felt a personal schism between my identity as an Asian-American and my interest in politics. Growing in Farmingdale, Maine, I never saw many minorities, much less any minority politicians. When volunteering for elections or issue campaigns in my hometown, I found that my Asian features and name were a bit of a distraction. I have been asked for numerous Asian recipes and exercise methods when canvassing or phone-banking, not to mention the doubts that occasionally arise about my American identity. I quickly learned to downplay my heritage and culture during these pursuits, unable to see any reconciliation between what I viewed as two extremes. To me, AAWPI represents a reconciliation of my political interests with my identity as an Asian-American, this face I have that becomes identified with all the stereotypes that make such interests and associated activities difficult. It's an organization that seeks to bridge this divide for all Asian-American women and provides a pipeline for substantive representation of Asian-American women in government.
Reflecting on my fellowship experience: I had the most fulfilling experiences through AAWPI's State House Fellowship Program. I saw the swearing-in of a Supreme Judicial nominee, read about and discussed current state policies with experts in the field, and experienced the legislative process first-hand, all the while having a support system to rely upon when confronted with difficulties. I even got a job post-college graduation, working as the Field Director on Suzanne Lee's historic Boston City Council campaign; all because of the networks that AAWPI has cultivated and the wisdom imparted by each link. AAWPI taught me that even though diversity will always be an issue in politics, my vocal dissatisfaction with the status quo can lead to progress. And although I may feel out of place in the political sphere, my presence can suggest change. AAWPI is truly a one-of-a-kind organization that I feel honored to be a part of.
What I'm doing now: I was the Field Director on Suzanne Lee's historic city council campaign; she is the first Asian-American woman to run for Boston City Council in a district that includes Chinatown and only lost to the incumbent by 82 votes! I'm now in D.C. working for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC)!
Placement: State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton),
Chair of the Joint Committee on Housing