By Eduardo Castaeeda
The Nikkei Student Union is a Japanese-American club at Cal Poly Pomona focused on advancing and protecting its culture through social and community service events.
The club was founded in the spring of 2008, and has continued to evolve ever since.
Club members define the word “Nikkei” in various ways. The literal definition is “Japanese-American,” but most non-Japanese members define it as “family and friends.”
CPP’s NSU’s main goals are to create a coherent group of board members and expand the club to include new members from diverse backgrounds, all while maintaining the club’s focus on culture.
The club remains open to all students, as it values personal growth and aspires to represent all races from CPP’s community.
Fifth-year environmental biology student Sam Ebiner is the club’s president, and has been a member since his freshman year.
“It’s nice when people from outside cultures want to join our club and be educated about Japanese culture,” said Ebiner. “I’ve seen people grow into significantly better people.”
The club emphasizes its culture by hosting social events for members and other students. Participating in Japanese-American community centers is essential to the club’s values in advancing the culture.
Ebiner says that the club is like a second home to club members, and that there is a larger family that NSU belongs to. Along with nine other campuses, CPP’s NSU is part of the Intercollegiate Nikkei Council for Southern California. Each chapter has a representative that meets once a month to connect with other campuses and share ideas for events.
CPP’s NSU shadows the constitution of UCLA’s chapter, as it is one of the oldest in the council.
On campus, NSU meets every Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the Bronco Student Center. After each meeting, the club holds social events on and off-campus to strengthen bonds.
“Our general meetings have a lot of people in them, so we can’t get to know each other as much,” said third-year accounting student Angela Chang. “Hanging out with each other [off-campus] gives us a chance to do that.”
To start off spring quarter, NSU held its sixth annual culture night on Saturday with a reception accompanied by their dance group, Nikkei Modern, and sister club, Touzan Taiko.
In the club’s earliest years, its culture night was a talent show primarily comprised of singers and dancers without a stage production.
This year’s story, “The Tale of Tadashi,” is about an unmotivated college freshman in an Asian-American studies class who finds out there is a paper due the next day. He falls asleep and dreams about what his paper is about.
Ebiner said that the story was about maintaining integrity and working toward a cause worth fighting for.
Other events this quarter include a trip to Manzanar at the end of the month to teach students about the history of Japanese-Americans after World War II. The club believes it is important to remind students about this event in history.
“It’s a blessing to be able to go there, let alone spend time with people that were actually in the camp,” said third-year communication student Danielle Oueijon.
To bring all other NSUs together, CPP’s chapter will host a basketball tournament. This tournament is significant for the community, as Ebiner said that many Japanese-American children grew up playing basketball.
To continue the club’s elements of social and community events, NSU has a co-ed big and little system similar to other campus organizations. Students sign up and are matched by the club board with other students based on their interests.
To reward members, the club board gives the “Nikkei Spotlight” award every other week after fall quarter to a student that stands out through his or her participation in social and community events.
At the club’s annual banquet, the “Member of the Year” award is given to a student that has participated the most and has made growth throughout the year in all of the events.
Ebiner said this year’s club had more new members join and about 60 members total.
“We had a slow year in getting new members in the past two years, but this year has been the best so far in having a solid group,” said Ebiner.
Eduardo Castaneda / The Poly Post
Nikkei Student Union
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