Two Penn State leaders left Heritage Hall last night with the goal of forming a more unified Asian Pacific American community.
Chiho Chan (junior-finance) and Sheetal Kumar (junior-economics and international business) were named Mr. and Miss Asian Penn State before a crowd of about 75 last night during the fifth annual Mr. and Miss Asian Penn State pageant.
The winners, who vied with six other contestants for their titles, said they would use their new roles to bring Penn State's Asian Pacific American community together.
Chan said when he first arrived on the Penn State campus, he was discouraged by the lack of unity among Asian Pacific Americans which he said led him to become involved in several Asian Pacific American organizations, including Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternity and the Asian Pacific American Coalition.
"I want to reach out to other Asian communities," he said. "We want to look for the betterment of the entire community as a whole."
Kumar also said she hopes to use her role as Miss Asian Penn State to spread Asian Pacific American awareness throughout campus. By doing so, she intends to unite the different Asian Pacific American communities at Penn State.
The contestants were judged on a personal essay, stage presence during a question and answer period and the amount of donations made in their names. Boxes with each contestant's name were set up in the HUB-Robeson Center. Proceeds will benefit bone marrow and breast cancer research foundations.
"First and foremost, it's a charitable event," said Phillip Lai (sophomore-international business and management science and information systems), student coordinator of the event.
The pageant also highlights and promotes awareness of Asian cultures and brings together all the factions within the Asian Pacific American community, he said.
Miss Pennsylvania 1999 Susan S. Spafford also attended last night's pageant. Spafford was the first Asian Pacific American crowned Miss Pennsylvania and placed as the second runner-up in the national Miss America pageant. Although the Miss Pennsylvania pageant is not affiliated with the Mr. and Miss Asian Penn State pageant, Spafford gave a short violin performance before speaking to the crowd about the Asian Pacific American's role in today's society.
"There aren't a lot of Asian role models out there in the public eye," she said. "That's something we need to change."
Spafford said Asian Pacific American leaders in attendance were on the right path by working towards greater awareness and unity within their community. She also encouraged them to go beyond their Asian Pacific American organizations to reach out to the rest of campus.
"I hope you will take it that extra step," she said.
Vicki Fong, a representative from Penn State's Department of Public Information and one of the contest's four judges, said the contest went beyond traditional pageant stereotypes.
"A lot of people think pageants are passé," she said. "But, it's popular for promoting cultural awareness."
Collegian staff writer Katy Carpenter contributed to this article.