Grinnell College Students Take on the Project Pengyou Leadership Summit
Xenophobia is not a new issue in our society and the Project Pengyou Leadership Summit is helping to end it. This year, the Wilson Program helped Grinnellians attend.
The nationally known leadership summit creates spaces and promotes movements to help end and fight the institutional xenophobia that has plagued our nation throughout history. It promotes collaboration, inclusion, and mutual understanding between Americans and Chinese citizens.
In the fall, three students approached the Wilson Program for funding to attend the summit, held at UC Berkeley in Berkeley, California.
Alethea Cook ’16, a Chinese and economics major and global development studies concentrator, says “I struggled to define myself and write my identity as a Taiwanese-American in Grinnell.” She grew up in a predominantly white small town and talks about how her racial and ethnic background influenced her interactions with peers. She uses her personal experiences as inspiration and hope.
Lessons from the Summit
Wright says she “helped the fellows to conceptualize and to apply the material that they had learned as well as to empower them to […] be able to start their own Project Pengyou.”
She also talked about learning how to balance personal life from professional life, which is something many people continue to struggle with. This issue sparked Cooks’ interest in the program; her personal life has affected her professional life.
Cook says she learned that “there is much more to the movement than what [she] had previously thought.” She likes the idea of creating personal relationships with people in order to change the perceptions non-Asian people tend to have of Asian people. She says she was inspired to work on a “person-to-person basis.”
Dalton says he “had little training regarding effective, innovative, and sustainable leadership” before the summit. The Project Pengyou Leadership Summit, he says, facilitated his personal growth and will have lasting benefits for his ability to lead.
Cook, Dalton, and Wright had different experiences that resulted in rather similar outcomes. They all praised the program for teaching them the meaning of leadership and say they gained tools necessary to be effective leaders and innovators.
The Wilson Program encourages students to become leaders in academic and non-academic fields and to become innovators that create awareness and instill paths to a better, more accepting society. In this case, that means making institutional changes that directly combat xenophobia and racism.