There are dozens of student organizations created to support different groups and interests at the Commerce School, but it wasn’t until relatively recently that the Asian Student Network (ASN) had a home at McIntire, too.
According to the group’s President, Reza Zaidi (McIntire ’23), the org, created to provide an inclusive space for Asian and Asian American students, was spurred by seeing marketing promotions for the Black Commerce Student Network (BCSN) and Latinx Student Network (LSN). Recognizing the benefits of that kind of support, Zaidi believes that groups such as the aforementioned orgs—and now ASN—aid current Commerce students, while offering pre-Commerce students networking and learning opportunities based on the experiences of their more seasoned peers.
Yet despite the valuable aspects of a group specifically for Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi-American (APIDA) students, Zaidi says that establishing ASN as a McIntire-affiliated CIO proved to be more difficult than expected.
“Due to McIntire’s two-year program length, our timetable to establish the organization, gain traction, receive McIntire approval, and then make a sincere impact was seriously compressed,” he recalls. “We had to quickly create promotion materials, recruit students, and coordinate with faculty to meet CIO requirements.” The delay in acquiring the successive approvals only added to the pressure that the time constraints presented—and that led up to the nascent group’s pitch to the President’s Council.
But it all worked out. “After a unanimous approval, the executive team was ecstatic to have ASN officially sponsored by McIntire,” he says.
Impactful and Educational
Though new, ASN has already been quite active, hosting many events ranging from their social Welcome Back Luncheon to many substantial educational and professionally oriented sessions. In addition to offering workshops focused on applying to McIntire and resume writing, they’ve organized a mock Integrated Core class taught by Professor Adelaide Wilcox King and launched an ASN mentorship program.
ASN Events Chair Elise Nguyen (McIntire ’23) says the group’s mentorship program launch, which paired third- and fourth-year members with younger mentees, was particularly important, as it let the students “get to know each other on a more personal level.” She says the program allowed first- and second-years to “gain valuable advice and insight tailored to their specific needs and goals,” while providing ASN senior members “the chance to give back to the community and share their experiences and knowledge with the next generation of Commerce students.”
For member Hayeon Chung (UVA ’25), the application workshop stands out as her most impactful experience in ASN. With the McIntire application deadline looming, Chung recalls how she was spending her time reading over her application to improve it as much as possible—yet she questioned if there were ways to make it even better, and the early January session proved critical for her.
“The opportunity to have my questions answered and my application reviewed by a third- or fourth-year Commerce student allowed me to receive meaningful feedback that further enhanced my application. I felt great relief, not only because I felt more confident in my application, but also because I felt the strong support coming from the organization and the McIntire community,” she says.
Zaidi says that witnessing the excitement and gratitude of first- and second- years learning about McIntire has been particularly rewarding: “Although the School’s brand is well known, many pre-Commerce students don’t know the first thing about what they’re dedicating their final two years of schooling to. Walking them through the ICE program and tips and tricks for their applications is incredibly rewarding because I know they are walking away with knowledge they wouldn’t have known without ASN.”
Bringing People Together
Niharika Kollipara (McIntire ’23), ASN’s Vice President, says that as the core mission of the org is to serve as resource for all Asian and Asian American McIntire and non-McIntire students interested in business, the goal of her leadership role has been to grow ASN and promote all its diversity efforts it to prospective members.
That growth has also included reaching out peer student orgs to partner with them to make an even greater impact at the School. “The entire exec group is always looking for a way to do joint events with BCSN and LSN, the other affinity groups at McIntire, to continue to amplify each other’s events and create larger events together,” Kollipara says.
Nguyen says that by partnering with those organizations, ASN brings together a diverse group of students to freely connect and learn from each other’s experiences.
One such event, a career fair held in conjunction with BCSN and LSN in September 2022, brought what Zaidi calls a “huge turnout,” and featured the involvement of companies including Capital One, Bain & Company, Deloitte, Accenture, Mastercard, and others.
“The career fair event was a grueling process that made the event’s success all the more rewarding,” he admits. “With more than 15 firms in attendance, we were able to expose our members to companies that almost never offer one-on-one opportunities to potential candidates.” He notes how pre-Commerce students rarely access recruiting events prior to enrolling at McIntire and that current Commerce students may struggle with identifying opportunities that “aren’t flooded with competition.”
“Serving as an intermediary between recruiters and our members is as impactful of a role as we could’ve imagined when first establishing ASN,” Zaidi says.
Kollipara says that hosting the virtual DEI career fair was a great opportunity “for students to talk to so many different companies in a short period of time.” She notes the amount of positive feedback and sheer gratitude from students as proof of the event’s success. “Students said this really helped them overcome their anxiousness with networking and was a great way to get to know potential future employers,” she says, pointing out how rewarding it was that ASN, BCSN, and LSN collaborated “to create a space for students to kick-start their networking and recruiting in a manner that was easy to navigate.”
Since then, ASN has also worked together with their peer affinity orgs to host a Snap and Chat event in January; all students, both Comm and non-Comm alike, convened to provide a networking session that also gave all participants the opportunity to take professional headshots at Rouss & Robertson Halls.
An Elevated Experience
Through its programs and events, ASN has, by extension, clearly enriched its members’ McIntire experience. Nguyen insists that by being involved with the org, she’s had been more engaged in the Commerce community, and had opportunities to share her institutional and experiential knowledge with younger students interested in pursuing business studies and careers.
“This has been a rewarding experience for me. I have been able to make a positive impact in the lives of others and help them succeed,” she says, adding that ASN has also helped her develop her own skill set, and served as a resource as she navigates her own academic and career path. “I have had the opportunity to learn from industry professionals and network with other students who are pursuing different paths within Commerce.”
Chung, who calls the org’s energy “bright and supportive,” says that the group makes all members feel welcome—including students who haven’t yet started their Comm School years: “Since ASN is a McIntire-affiliated organization, through all the activities ASN hosted, I felt included in the McIntire community even though I’m a pre-Commerce student who isn’t officially a McIntire student. It was reassuring to know that I had access to resources crucial to my learning and student life.”
Kollipara finds that those she’s met through ASN have been consequential for producing such a positive Comm School student experience.
“I would have not been able to learn and work with the hardworking people who run Student Life at McIntire and push for increasing diversity efforts, such as Katherine Lawrence,” she says, crediting Lawrence for the integral part she’s had in helping develop ASN as it stands today.
Going through that process of establishing the group was both instructive and demanding for Kollipara as well: “Being able to see the growth and impact of our efforts from being a seed of an idea—then going through the CIO and CRSO process, being able to grow our membership to almost 120 members, and having meaningful events for them—has been really rewarding to see in a span of a year and makes all our hard work worth it. Overall, I would say ASN has motivated us (our exec group) to lay the foundation for our organization that will hopefully last for a long time and continue to make space for Asian and Asian American students after we graduate!”
Zaidi credits his time in ASN with bringing him closer to his peers and faculty, especially as a community college transfer student who hadn’t had the previous two years to get to know people on Grounds. His work with the org has given him avenues to build friendships with administrators whom he now relies on for guidance, as well as to foster relationships with students outside of the Comm School.
“ASN is an opportunity to connect with students of all majors and interests,” he says, noting how it also has provided him with a unique perspective of McIntire. “I feel like I can make a sincere difference in other students’ experiences and can help the faculty accomplish their goals for McIntire as an institution. It helps me feel connected to my peers and is a way for me to leave an impactful legacy that will benefit future students.”