When people think of Asian American communities, Chinatowns such as in San Francisco or New York come to mind. But the Midwest, Ohio in general and Dayton in particular also have pockets of Asian Americans who might go unnoticed or be misperceived.
Now, though, individual stories about those of Asian descent, including several from Wright State University, are coming to light through a special project called “Asian in Ohio” produced by Midstory, a Toledo-based nonprofit media group.
Nicolyn Woodcock, Ph.D., assistant director of Wright State’s Asian and Native American Center, coordinated a group of students and staff to meet on campus with representatives of Midstory last February.
Ruth Chang, a co-founder of the nonprofit, said Midstory’s mission is to “progress the narrative of the Midwest through storytelling and research and by working with young people to envision our future here.”
“Asian in Ohio” is an interactive gallery available at midstory.org/asian-in-ohio that includes maps, data and information in addition to the individual interviews.
Chang, her brother Sam Chang and his wife, Logan Sander, the other co-founders of Midstory, reached out to Asian Americans in Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Akron, Toledo and Dayton. The goal was to provide a window into what life is like for Asian Americans in Ohio, Ruth Chang said.
Woodcock, who is Filipino American, said she was excited when Midstory approached her about interviewing Asian Americans on campus because the project dovetailed with her own ongoing research into how Asian American identity is different in the Midwest compared to other places in the country.
Besides Woodcock, the Midstory representatives interviewed Mia Honaker, executive assistant to the vice president for inclusive excellence; Jesse Makowski, international student program coordinator in the University Center for International Education; and student leaders and participants in the Asian Student Association, including Ryan Diaz, 2022-23 president; Hannah Davidson, 2022-23 secretary; Padma Doppalapudi, 2022-23 social media chair; Ayumi Enorme, 2023-24 president-elect; and members Laurel Embury and Natasha Kennel. Enorme and Kennel also are members of Wright State’s Associate Chapter of Kappa Phi Lambda Sorority, the university’s only Asian-interest sorority.
Woodcock said she is reading the interviews of Asian Americans on the Midstory project and is pleased and excited that she and her fellow Raiders are included.
“I’ve had positive feedback from others in the Asian American community and from my personal circle,” Woodcock said of the interviewee videos.
Chang praised Wright State’s role.
“We talked with lots of different people and Nicolyn was one of the most helpful. It was good that the center was open and inviting for us to have this conversation,” she said. “It was a unique experience to have someone set this up for us. That speaks to the readiness of the center to have these sorts of engagements, like Asian American representation.”
Woodcock praised Midstory’s effort.
“One of the major benefits of this is that it provides an archive that fills in the gaps on the research of Asian American experiences,” she said. “Another big benefit is that it’s publicly accessible. This is not for an audience of scholars. With the online format, people can access it for free and interact with it.”
“The Midwest is thought to be conservative and not to be diverse,” she said. “This project tells us something different. It tells us that Ohio is quite diverse.”
Wright State had a significant number of participants, more so than any other single place included in the project. Being so involved raises awareness about the Asian and Native American Center, Woodcock said.