Public Policy student Asma Men recently went to Seattle to participate in an elite panel. This is her first person account of the adventure.
“What do you think about being on a panel for an upcoming Asian and Pacific Islander symposium in Seattle?” asked Professor Paul Ong  from UCLA Luskin's Urban Planning Department.
I wanted to jump out of excitement, but told myself to remain calm and professional as I answered him, “Sure. What is it about?”
I was still in disbelief.
Little does Professor Ong know, but I’m actually a big fan of his. No, I’m not saying that as a sycophant. He was the reason why I was exposed globalization, migration, and employment in ethnic communities during my undergraduate years. I read one of his books as part of my mandatory readings and it was one of few I didn’t put down out of boredom.
So yea, I was elated when he asked me that question.
I wanted to take a course with Professor Ong since I came to UCLA. Luckily, there was one offered — Community, Planning, and Policy — last quarter.
This class encompassed my passion — community and policy. Yet, I was debating on dropping the course because it sounded like a mini-capstone project similar to the Public Policy Department’s Applied Policy Project (APP). Seeing that my actual APP was last quarter as well, I was unsure if I should take on such a load in addition to working part-time.
But Professor Ong convinced me to take the course because of the minimal experience I had in conducting surveys. When I say minimal, I mean it. I’ve only created two surveys, distributed, collected, and analyzed data on it before. I guess that was enough for him.
Even more so, the class project was going to be on the Cambodian community in Long Beach. That’s where I was born, and my Mom is Cambodian. I couldn’t pass up the chance.
I was fortunate enough to transfer some of the skills I learned in Meredith Phillips ' “Research and Design” class for this course. As a result, that knowledge paid off.
When the opportunity to sit on a panel at the Second Annual Asian American and Pacific Islander Policy Consortium, was presented to me I had to take it.
I did what I needed to do, got the funding, and was on my way to the University of Washington.
Myself and another supportive peer presented our work in front of well-respected academics in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. It was intimidating, yet a proud moment.
My professor who wrote my letter of recommendations for graduate school was there as well! She couldn’t help but endearingly snap photos of me as I presented.
To add the cherry on top, one of the speakers and panelists, Dr. Ninez Ponce, acknowledged our presentation and wanted to possibly connect regarding the California Health Interview Survey with UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research.
I felt that I made a difference.
It was a one day and night flight in and out of Seattle, but one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I never felt happier to have stayed in a class as I had with this one.