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Alan Tien '91: Disorientated No More

Updated: Sep 15, 2021

I wrote a personal essay on Asian Americans’ sense of disorientation that got published in the Stanford Magazine, which triggered a ’91 classmate to contact me about the Stanford Asian American Studies Endowment Initiative (SAASEI). I was flabbergasted to learn that Stanford has a total of $5,000 for the AAS budget. Wow. Time to change that.

Other than playing volleyball in the Oval, I haven’t been involved with Stanford since graduation. Work, family, expat assignment in China, etc. The usual excuses. I also haven’t given much thought to our status in the US as Asian Americans, complacently living under the radar, beneath the bamboo ceiling.

Then came BLM. I got a twinge of concern as racism boiled to the surface again, but I have to admit, it didn’t hit me personally. It was distressing, but frankly, a lot of things were distressing in 2020. However, when news of Asian violence started appearing, my twinge turned into discomfort. Though I had not experienced any of the violence personally, I did wonder what if it were my mother struck in the back of her head walking through Chinatown? Those thoughts eventually gelled into my essay, which coalesced a lot of different AA experiences in my life.

So, I was primed to get involved in SAASEI when my friend called. 30 years ago (wow, time flies!), I founded with five friends the Stanford chapter of the Asian American fraternity Lambda Phi Epsilon, the first chapter in a private school at the time. We were dismayed by the disproportionately low percentage of Asian males in the Greek system, and we figured the best way to hack the system was to create our own fraternity and instantly inject 20 of us in.

After graduation, emboldened by an amazing experience at Love Boat in Taiwan, I founded M Society West, a young AA professionals organization in the Bay Area. Of course we threw great parties, but we also organized professional development and community service events and even published a 4-color AA newsletter.

Fast forward to today, as an empty nester, I’m ready to get re-engaged, hopefully adding life experience and relationships to passion and energy. It’s time to give back to Stanford to move forward with the Asian American narrative in our great country.

Alan Tien

August 2021

Honolulu, Hawaii

Stanford EE’91, Lambda Phi Epsilon founder, SAASEI team


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