VICKSBURG, Miss.,— The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) continues to recognize the wide-range of individuals who come from different backgrounds and provide additional insights into the human experience of its workforce. In observance of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, ERDC held its second annual ERDC-wide AAPI panel discussion.
This year’s theme for AAPI month is “Advancing Leaders Through Collaboration,” which recognizes the collective benefits resulting from a spirit of community, cooperation and cultural engagement.
The ERDC virtual event titled, “A candid conversation with ERDC colleagues about Asian American and Pacific Islander races, cultures and experiences,” included five panelists and two moderators from various laboratories across the organization. The panelist discussed their different AAPI backgrounds, favorite foods, holidays and memories that celebrate their heritage and important topics concerning their multicultural experiences.
“My heritage has shaped the person I am today,” said David Kalohi, an information technology specialist of the ERDC’s Information Technology Laboratory (ITL). “It is about finding a balance between being American and AAPI; once you are able to do that, the rest just falls away.”
For Dr. Imes Chiu, a research social scientist with ERDC’s Construction Engineering Research Laboratory, forming multicultural working groups is important. “There are proven advantages in creating a multicultural collaboration team,” said Dr. Chiu. “Diverse groups usually outperform more homogenous groups. The diverse groups trigger more careful information processing and make you think more deeply.”
All panelists stressed that the diversity of their culture and experiences bring diversity of thought and perspective, which leads to innovation. In a research and development organization such as ERDC, it leads to innovation of science and technology to help the Warfighter.
“People with multicultural backgrounds look at problems with a completely different set of lenses,” said ERDC-ITL research mathematician, Dr. Reena Patel. “They bring a different and fresh prospective to solving problems, and there is unity in the diversity.”
She also stated that cultural diversity brings the attitude of tolerance in the workplace and the unique attitude of solving problems.
“I love being Asian American and appreciate the diversity in learning about other people’s cultures,” added Melissa Pham, a computer scientist with the ERDC Geospatial Research Laboratory.