This summer, Lisa Chiang and Chiti Chen, both graduates of the 2020 Asian Executive Management Program (AEMP), joined the Junyi School of Innovation workforce after completing the program in April. In collaboration with WISH Communication, Brigham Young University-Hawaii (BYUH), and the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC), The Alliance Cultural Foundation’s (ACF) AEMP offers full scholarship to selected applicants who are passionate about the wellbeing of the Huatung indigenous communities to pursue study at the BYUH. A program designed for eight-months, Chiang and Chen took courses relating to culture and tourism. Under the unfamiliar environment, they were inspired by the difference in teaching and learning. At Junyi, they are able to apply their new learned knowledge from their eight-month journey.
As part of its mission to create sustainable economic growth in the Huatung region and to foster society's value for the indigenous culture, ACF is dedicated to nurture talents locally. Several of ACF’s programs brings youths from outside of Huatung to the region in hopes to connect them to the culture, the land, and to discover an appreciation for it. Each summer, ACF organizes youth camps in Taitung; it gives opportunity to over 100 volunteers from across Taiwan to get to know Huatung and the people of the region. As Ahronglong Sakinu from the Paiwan tribe once said, “Regardless of blood relation, I feel that the people who value and respect the indigenous culture naturally become part of the indigenous family…”
The AEMP encourages its students to learn and think about cultural preservation as well as issues that may arise amid the growth of tourism. In addition to taking classes at the BYUH, students take on internships to gain practical experiences as part of the program requisite. After completing the program, graduates commit to two-years of work at ACF or an ACF partner organization.
Before embarking on the AEMP journey, Chiang and Chen were both senior volunteers of ACF where they dedicated a majority of their volunteering to summer camps. Mid-May, they began their vocations at Junyi. Chiang’s work mainly involves summer camps and promoting English online learning resources schoolwide, while Chen is involved with the recruitment of Junyi’s scholarship program as well as the Junyi Innovative Study Abroad Program.
For six-consecutive years as a volunteer, Chiang took on camp leadership roles; since shifting from her role to an employee, she found the experience to be entirely different – from leading new camp volunteers to communicating with different departments, they are all new challenges. On Chen’s first day, she visited the homes of Junyi’s scholarship program candidates – an annual occasion for the school to better understand real-life conditions at homes as well as whether candidates fit well to the school. Chen was able to witness secondary poverty firsthand which she did not realize until then that it was likely the same condition many of the campers she met while volunteering in the summers were living in.
At BYUH, Chiang developed an interest in Human Resources (HR). HR focuses on human to human communication, uncovering what the other needs; she found her observations useful when communicating with different departments. BYUH students come from over 70 countries. With the opportunity to engage with a body of culturally diverse students, Chiang learned to mutually respect ideas when leading a team. Instead of changing ideas to her own ideals as she once did, she learned to facilitate them towards the end goal.
BYUH students vary in age and life experiences. Chen found that while studying in Taiwan with peers of similar ages and goals, peers tend to compete in performance and results. Due to BYUH’s diversity, every student moves towards their own paths striving to be the best of themselves. Under this environment, Chen was able to focus and thrive. In Chen’s internship at an apparel shop in the PCC, staff members were encouraged by the management to offer suggestions on how the shop can improve in its day-to-day operations. With the given trust and the space to grow, Chen shifted away from her usual neglect to authority. At Junyi, when given a project, she now considers its purpose and works hard to reach the goal.
Dora Tseng, AEMP’s 2019 graduate has now worked at Junyi for an entire year. As the Boarding Program Coordinator, her role involves the planning of the student boarding life. Boarding is a crucial part of a student’s growth, particularly for students who come from unstable family conditions; Junyi hopes to set an example for boarding management and living. Besides enforcing a strict schedule for students, Junyi values nurturing self-learning as well as creating off-campus activities for students to experience Huatung.
Last semester, Tseng organized four weekend activities. Students volunteered at the Sakuban, Puyuma village by helping to clean the commune, they also visited the National Museum of Prehistory, played paintball, and even learned pottery from a Paiwan artist. Junyi students come from all parts of Taiwan, and Tseng hopes that through the activities they can develop a deeper connection with the local community.
For Tseng, her greatest takeaway from the AEMP is communication. At the BYUH, she witnessed immense trust between the student and teacher; how students would speak freely of their ideas, debate with teachers, while being heard and respected. At Junyi, she applies the same trust to students. On Wednesdays, Tseng schedules discussion sessions with 11th and 12th graders. Students share with her their lives, thoughts and concerns, while Tseng offers advice and words of encouragement. When sessions were put on hold amid Covid-19, Tseng felt encouraged in her work when students were eager to resume sessions.
Tseng also brought the warmth of the BYUH office back to Junyi. Differ from the more serious tone of teachers’ offices in Taiwan, Tseng decorates her space with books, candies, posters to create a more welcoming tone and opportunity for small talk. She leaves notepads on her desk for students to leave messages to not miss out on any opportunity to communicate with them.
AEMP currently has seven graduates, three of which started from volunteering at summer camps. Before being selected to the AEMP, they worked in the offices of ACF and are now staff members of Junyi. ACF hopes that regardless of where their life journey takes them, that they will bring and share the culture and values of Huatung with them. ACF hopes to continue to foster broader vision in youths who contribute to the sustainable economic growth of Huatung.