Ruiyan Wang, Contributing Photographer

With in-person social events at a halt, the Asian American Cultural Center, or AACC, and the Yale Department of Athletics turned to virtual programming for their annual student-athlete mixer.

The AACC Student-Athlete Welcome Mixer was held online Tuesday night to introduce athletes to the wealth of resources available to them through cultural communities on campus and allow them to meet fellow Bulldogs. Unlike the Zoom meetings that have become so familiar, the organizations opted to host their mixer on Remo, a virtual conference platform that allows participants to sit at “tables” in small groups and move around the virtual conference room to speak with different people.

“It’s certainly a strange time, but nevertheless, we wanted to remind you that while the AACC building may be physically closed, it remains a resource for all of Yale,” AACC Director Joliana Yee said at the start of the event.

With all Ivy League competition cancelled for the fall term, athletes are looking for new ways to stay connected to their teams. Especially for remotely enrolled students, maintaining camaraderie without being able to interact and train with teammates has been incredibly difficult, Yale tennis player Chelsea Kung ’23 said. Many teams try to schedule regular Zoom calls to talk about training or to socialize. Kung said that, though she has many of these informal chats with teammates, this mixer was the first formally planned event she has attended besides team meetings.

Though holding the event online was new for all, the collaboration between the AACC and Yale Athletics was not; the two organizations first co-hosted a student-athlete mixer in fall 2018 as part of a series of welcome mixers for Asian-identifying students to get to know their cultural community. Specifically, the AACC wanted to provide opportunities for subgroups of students who do not frequent the AACC to learn about the resources available to them. 

To Director Yee, sports and cultural communities are “inherently linked” at Yale. Sports, she says, are a large part of how communities preserve their heritage and can elucidate shared experiences across cultures.

“I think this event is great for allowing POC athletes to have a vector into another community,” said Kung. “Sometimes people can be honed in on their particular team, and it’s great to have ways for them to meet new people and experience different things.”

The mixer was also open to student-athletes who do not identify as Asian or Asian American.

Kung is also a member of Yale Bulldogs for Change, a student-run organization aiming to promote a safe, welcoming environment for BIPOC athletes and give them a voice in Yale Athletics. YBC helped put on Tuesday’s event and plans to continue virtual programming throughout the year. 

Their plans include creating a mentorship program for first-year athletes to be paired with an older athlete “big sibs,” which aims to build a support system for athletes navigating a new start at college. YBC also plans to host more events like Tuesday’s mixer with other cultural houses in the future. The YBC and the Afro-American Cultural Center recently co-hosted a student-athlete mixer on Sept. 15.

After introductions from Yee and the YBC, attendees were able to freely move through the virtual room, sitting at tables of six people and playing “Human Bingo.” Participants were encouraged to fill out their bingo board by meeting new people and learning facts about them. Tiles required, for example, finding people who “speak more than one language” or “have the same dream job as you.” The layout of the room allowed people to connect with all other participants while still only having conversations with six people at a time.

Like other groups at Yale, the AACC is attempting to maintain community even with members tuning in from around the world. In normal years, the physical building of the AACC serves as a place for students to socialize, cook and study with friends. Without that space, AACC members and leaders are seeking alternative opportunities to promote learning around Asian and Asian American experiences.

“It was really refreshing to be able to socialize with other people on a platform that was completely separate from Zoom, since we have been using that exclusively in an academic environment,” Yale tennis player Vivian Cheng ’23 said. “Unlike Zoom, the game-like layout of Remo gave off a community vibe that I felt comfortable in. It was really interesting to connect with people who I never would’ve had the chance to meet before.”

Tuesday’s event was the third annual AACC Student-Athlete Mixer.

Alessa Kim-Panero | alessa.kim-panero@yale.edu