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The UNC Asian American Center celebrates the opening of its physical location with a ribbon-cutting event and look inside the center.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony marks the opening of the Asian American Center on Cameron Avenue. (by Jon Gardiner)

New Asian American Center opens

The new Asian American Center, led by Heidi Kim of the department of English and comparative literature, gives students, faculty and staff of Asian descent a place to call their own.

The center opened on Cameron Avenue with a small ribbon-cutting ceremony in August.

The creation of the center during the COVID-19 pandemic and a surge in violence against Asian Americans was particularly profound timing, Kim said.

“I can’t think of a year in history that more clearly demonstrated the need for an Asian American Center that is devoted to supporting the Asian American community and educating our students and our state on the complex and diverse history of Asian America, with all of its painful and glorious moments,” Kim said at the ceremony.

Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz recalled making dumplings with donor Barb Lee, former chair of the Board of Visitors, at an early fundraiser for the center, and called the trustees’ vote to establish the center one of the highlights of his administration.

“There is still much work to be done as we build our community together,” he said. “But today is really about celebrating important work of building diversity here on our campus.”

The University’s largest ethnic minority — currently 17% of the student body — have been talking about a center of their own since the 1980s.

“It’s actually unbelievable — to have a home and a living room for Asian Americans on campus,” said Eugene Lao ’91, who co-founded the Asian Students Association more than 30 years ago and made the first gift to the new center.