Last Friday, Taiwanese and Taiwanese-American students from East Coast colleges and universities flocked to New Haven’s Omni Hotel for a weekend of speeches, workshops and bonding.

Over 400 students from several schools — including Harvard, Princeton, Columbia and Cornell — attended this year’s East Coast Intercollegiate Taiwanese-American Students Association conference, which ran from Feb. 5 to Feb. 8.

The theme of the conference was “Choose Your Flavor.” According to the ITASA conference Web site, the theme “reflects the fact that Taiwanese America is as kaleidoscopic, as varied and dynamic, as the individuals who constitute it.”

The conference featured two keynote addresses, 26 speakers and 22 workshops. Guests included Tze-Chiang Chen, vice president of IBM; Eric Byler, director of the critically acclaimed 2003 film “Charlotte Sometimes”; and Pang-Mei Natasha Chang, a lecturer at Yale and author of the book “Bound Feet and Western Dress.” The workshops, which were held in eight sessions, addressed topics such as religion, technology, gay rights in Taiwan, and the commercial relationship between Taiwan and China.

On Friday evening, Dr. David Ho, AIDS researcher and Time magazine’s 1996 Man of the Year, delivered the keynote address. Ho is half Taiwanese and half Chinese.

Ho addressed the global implications of the AIDS epidemic, including the repercussions of violating intellectual property law to sell AIDS medications to developing countries and the need for more funding and research into the treatment of the disease.

The researcher stressed the need for awareness and action to help control the AIDS problem.

“Pressure should be applied at all levels,” Ho said. “AIDS is not just a medical issue; it’s a societal one. This is a huge humanitarian crisis. For a tragedy of this magnitude, there’s relative inaction.”

Katherine Chiu, a junior at Columbia, said she enjoyed Ho’s speaking style. Despite talking seriously about the AIDS crisis, Ho told many anecdotes about his wife and children and delighted the audience by speaking briefly about boba, a tapioca-filled “bubble” tea drink, in honor of the “flavor” theme of the conference.

“I was pleasantly surprised by Dr. Ho,” Chiu said. “I enjoyed hearing his personal stories and insights.”

Derrick Chen, a senior at the Stern School of Business at New York University, said he was impressed with Ho’s ability to stay on topic despite the interactive format and the numerous personal references.

“It was more or less what I expected,” Chen said. “But I’m glad he kept it very relevant.”

Yale bid against other schools to have the conference in New Haven.

Susan Guo, a senior at Columbia, said she was impressed with the organization of the event. She said the conference differed in previous years.

“It’s cool that we only have to pay 30 dollars for three days here,” Guo said. “Everything’s really well-planned and convenient.”

Despite Friday’s heavy rains and cold, Harry Jenq, a freshman at Princeton, said he was impressed with Yale and New Haven.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Jenq said. “And I heard [the Omni] is a five-star hotel.”

ITASA holds one weekend-long conference each year in each of its three national regions. This year, the midwest conference will be held in March at the University of Michigan, and the west coast conference will be held in April at Stanford University.

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