What is your name, year in school, and post-grad plans?
My name is Seung Hye Yang, but I go by Shang! I am a 2L and I am working at Paul, Weiss this summer. As of right now I’m thinking of going into transactional work.
Can you give me a quick rundown of what APALSA is all about?
APALSA is a coalition of Asian-American and Pacific Islander students here at BC Law. In a predominantly white institution such as BC Law, it’s incredibly important to have a sense of community so we don’t feel lost or unseen. APALSA is a safe space for Asian-American students to come together and feel at home, even if it’s just a couple of times a month, because it’s a great reminder that we take up space at BC Law and that we are just as worthy to be here as anyone else! We’re also a very open community and welcome everyone to our events.
Why did you choose to lead APALSA?
I’ve always been incredibly passionate about raising Asian-American voices in the classroom, work setting, and society in general. Growing up in a Korean household, I constantly battled stereotypes that I should be quiet and not rock the boat, and be in favor of letting things slide by. That sort of stereotype is pervasive from both sides; Asian-Americans who grew up with cultural collectivism values that clash with Western individualist values, and the very limited Western knowledge of Asian-Americans based on movies and other forms of media that often incorporate such stereotypes to reduce us to very rudimentary characteristics.
It’s always an uphill battle but so worth it to see Asian-Americans finally speaking out against the odds that are stacked against us. Coming to Boston College Law School, a school with a predominantly white population, meant that I’d face microaggressions (and sometimes straight-up ignorance) often. From being mistaken for other Asian-American students, having to Americanize my name for the sake of not having to correct peoples’ pronunciations every time, or constantly being expected to answer questions about the general Asian-American experience as if I’m representative of all East Asians–it’s an all-too normalized experience that requires speaking out. I know a lot of Asian-Americans have been taught to stay quiet and keep their head down, to not rock the boat, but we need to speak up for ourselves and for each other because otherwise, nothing will change.
The “bamboo ceiling” is so pervasive in many workplaces, especially the legal field. It is all too common to see firms and organizations pushing diversity, but not seeing much diversity when it comes to higher positions. I think change comes from individuals first and foremost and to see a larger-scale change, we need to start at a smaller level.
What is your favorite APALSA event?
I love our general body meetings! It’s the perfect time for students to wind down, learn about upcoming events, and enjoy delicious food from different parts of Asia. It’s hard to make time to see people in law school, which is why we love providing a space for people to catch up and eat good food! It’s also a time where we can make major event announcements while everyone is in the same room.
I have to say–our Lunar New Year event really threw us for a loop. The shooting that occurred over Lunar New Year weekend shook things up, and we had to make the tough decision to go forward with the event despite the pain the shooting caused for our community. However, we were able to fundraise $1265 for the families of the victims with the help of Dean Lienau, who so readily canceled the all-faculty meeting so that BC Law faculty could attend our event and help contribute to our fundraising efforts and embrace our community. That event really touched my heart, and it felt like the love APALSA gives to the BC Law community was being paid back to us.
I’m also really excited for our trial re-enactment, coming up on March 15th. APALSA has never done anything like this before, and this was a bit of an upheaval in terms of finding funding, organizing a huge event from scratch, and coordinating with both students and attorneys to make this event run smoothly. We will be doing a trial re-enactment of Korematsu v. United States, which was a landmark decision that showcases the dangers of Anti-Asian sentiment and racism at the judicial level. Afterwards, there will be a networking session with Asian-American attorneys who can speak to our students about the trial re-enactment, their experiences as Asian-American attorneys, and it gives our students a chance to be able to speak to Asian-American attorneys on a more personal level! We invite the whole school to come watch the trial re-enactment.
What have been some difficulties in leading your organization, and how did you overcome them?
My biggest worry all the time is the budget we work with. Sometimes, unexpected expenses come up that we need to account for and we need to work around it. It’s also difficult to reconcile my own expectations with reality- oftentimes, I have very grandiose ideas that unfortunately aren’t realistic or doable due to the budget constraints we have. In an ideal world, we’d have so many more events and opportunities for students–but it’s a very humbling reminder that we are students ourselves, and we are more than just the faces of our organization. I’ve learned that I can’t handle everything on my own and that’s okay, because our E-board is eager to help out in every way!
What have you learned from being a student leader, and do you recommend other law students to take up that mantle?
Being a student leader requires a lot of commitment to the cause, and it’s often a very stressful position to be in because it really does feel like everyone is looking to you for final say on everything, which can be a lot of pressure. At the same time, it feels great when I see events that we’ve planned run so smoothly and it warms my heart to see happy faces at our events! I also truly have never been so stressed over ordering food, but I guess it’s good practice for the future? It taught me how to be flexible and think on my feet, and also how to work with others in a smooth way.
With all that said, I don’t recommend being a student leader for anyone who’s just looking to add a fancy line on their resume. I’ve honestly poured a lot of my heart and time into APALSA and it can be very time-consuming, but I do it because I love our members and I want to provide them with the best events and best opportunities. It’s readily apparent when people are only present for a resume line, so if you’re not going to lead for the sake of leading, I would stay away from a leadership position. But if you genuinely want to create change and make even the smallest of differences in your community, and have the bandwidth to do so, I’d say it’s a great way to hone your leadership skills and make your ideas come to life! I’m proud of everything we’ve done this year and hope that future APALSA E-boards can carry on the mantle and continue building upon the foundations that we, and past E-boards, have set in place.
Do you have any members you want to give a shout out to?
I definitely want to give a shout out to our APALSA E-Board; they have been so incredible and cooperative in everything, even when things got really tough! And to all APALSA members, you guys rock and truly make this position worth it!
Seung Hye Shang Yang is a second-year student at BC Law. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.