Campus Celeb: Karen Chin '16

You’ll probably see her hanging around Anschutz, the Office of Multicultural Affairs or the AASU office. There’s also a high chance you’ll recognize her if you’ve attended any multicultural events on campus. Karen Chin is amiable, funny and talkative—the kind of girl who will come up to you at a social event and make you feel like you’ve been friends for much longer than a few minutes. She’s also a force to be reckoned with and works hard to create safe spaces for people of all identities.

Karen is the president of the Asian American Student Union (AASU), the assistant director of Mosaic and a pre-education advisor at the School of Education. She works closely with issues about multiculturalism and diversity, using her on-campus involvements to create a positive influence on campus. One of her biggest goals is fostering a feeling of inclusiveness for all types of students.

“Community matters,” she said. “I don’t like feeling alone, and I don’t like when people feel left behind. When they do, it really bothers me.”

Karen knows what it’s like to feel like she doesn’t belong. As an Asian American, she said she’s had moments where she didn’t feel like she belonged. She said that many Asian Americans, as well as other people with intersectional identities, often have an “in-between” feeling and may have problems finding a community they feel like they belong in. And the first step, she said, is teaching people to talk about it.

“I want students to feel like they can talk about it and ask questions,” Karen said. “I want people to feel like they’re welcomed and that they belong. Even students that are white that come to AASU, I know they sometimes think that people will hate them if they go into these spaces, but we don’t. If you’re here, it’s impressive. It means you’re trying to learn something.”

Karen said that while she is glad people are looking more closely at multiculturalism, it is often the same people who are having discussions about it on campus. While she knows many people come into college without the knowledge of certain concepts, she believes it should be everyone’s goal to learn about different identities and ideas while they’re in college.

“If you come to KU and you’re comfortable the entire time, you did not take advantage of what’s being offered here,” she said. “Learn from new experiences and ideologies that challenge your own, lose a few arguments, sit in a new space and listen actively and ask how you can help. The little things you do make a difference.”

I think many people would agree that Karen has made a difference at KU. And what’s next for her? As for after graduation, she plans to continue her activism off-campus.

“I definitely want to keep working with the underrepresented minority population, but I’m not completely sure how yet,” she said. “I want to do something that will allow me to affect change, not just the individuals involved.”