Emily Cheng, a member of the Kalamazoo College class of 2023, is a student leader who has dedicated her time on campus and in her community to advocating for reproductive rights, access to affordable housing, and working to diversify the students holding on-campus leadership positions. She has found community at the Intercultural Center, as a place that catalyzed and affirmed her desire to work with her community to create larger, greater change. Emily is a Kalamazoo College Peer Educator and Co-president of the Asian Pacific Islander Student Association, while also serving as a Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute Fellow for the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. As a major in Anthropology/Sociology and a minor in Political Science with a concentration in Public Policy and Urban Affairs, Emily has focused her academic journey on understanding social systems and advocating for social justice in a variety of contexts.
The smells of chopped garlic and sesame oil lingered the sidewalks of my community, signaling time for dinner. Suddenly, the smells of home cooked meals faded and my neighbors’ presence disappeared. Rent and home prices drastically increased and the home cooks were forced to move. Angry at this injustice, I turned to my friends and community leaders that wanted to protect our neighbors’ homes and wellbeing against unfair political policies. Working on the ground with my community trying to challenge our policymakers, ignited my desire to create institutional change in the hopes of creating a more just world. Now at Kalamazoo, I contribute to create an accountable community space for AAPI students at the Asian Pacific Islander Student Association to address harmful social norms as well as being a part of the Sexual Peer Educator program, where I create an online community to share inclusive sexual health resources and programs to all students. With the help from my community, mentors, and friends I am continuously growing and learning best practices to create sustainable change and break down institutionalized barriers. My desire to establish a more just world will not be done alone, but with the people around me.