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Club Spotlight: Chinese Student Association

By Henry Fisher | April 8, 2024

The University at Albany’s Chinese Student Association (CSA) is the largest Asian student organization on campus, according to their MyInvolvement page. The club holds many cultural events throughout the semester, such as the Lunar New Year red envelope event on Feb. 13 or the upcoming China Night at the Egg on April 26. Beyond this, CSA also organizes dance teams and collaborates with other Asian student organizations, such as Lambda Phi Epsilon. 

CSA members and guests holding up their red envelopes at the Lunar New Year event on Feb. 13. 

Photo Credit: Chinese Student Association

CSA President Heather Murray spoke on the club and her own role, saying, “The main point of my job, and everyone’s job on CSA is to create a welcoming community for students to be a part of.”

Murray went on to discuss CSA’s cultural events throughout the year, as well as how the club has been affected by the 2023-24 budget cuts. Most clubs on campus, including CSA, saw a decreased budget as the surplus budget from UAlbany’s COVID-19 years was used over the previous academic year.

“Not only does CSA do big events, such as China Night – which is usually a very grand event at the end of the Spring semester each year – but in the past we used to do more for Lunar New Year, such as Lunar Banquet and we did a Lunar Prom last year,” Murray said. “Now that budgets have been cut, we’ve had to make our Lunar New Year events a little smaller.”

Murray added that CSA also uses its budget for its dance teams, which, according to their website, includes Bloodline, CSA Modern, and the Fan Dance teams. Bloodline is CSA’s “premier” dance team, one that Murray was captain of prior to being elected as president. Each team has tryouts for those interested, with all welcome to tryout. CSA Modern and the Fan Dance teams both accept all who attend their tryouts, while Bloodline is more selective. 

CSA Bloodline recently performed on April 5 as a part of ASIA Night, an event hosted by the Albany State Indian Alliance. 

CSA Bloodline performing at ASIA Night on April 5.

Photo Credit: Shaylee Staves / The ASP

Cultural Co-Chair Olivia Ou discussed the Lunar New Year event held in February. Club members watched a video to learn how to create hongbao, red envelopes commonly filled with money, before making and customizing their own. According to the Chinese Language Institute, they are given during festivals or important life events. Versions of hongbao are found in other Asian countries, such as Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia. 

“For this year, we are learning about hongbao, like red envelopes. Usually these are given out during Chinese New Year,” Ou said. “...for this Chinese New Year – we did something similar last year – but this year we wanted them to have more creativity where they make it themselves instead of us giving them out like last year. They can enjoy their time with their friends, just decorating red envelopes and making red envelopes.”

Three participants holding their red envelopes at the Lunar New Year event on Feb. 13. 

Photo Credit: Chinese Student Association

Many club members found community through CSA, such as Vice President Helen Zheng, who joined the club during UAlbany’s COVID years. 

“I’m a COVID student – my senior year was 2020 – and I think that finding a community is so important,” Zheng said. “No other clubs were really doing that except for CSA. They were reaching out to me, giving me a time, even though it wasn’t your traditional college years. I fell in love with the e-board, I fell in love with the members, and now I’m here.”

Zheng has also seen self-improvement with CSA, as she said, “I definitely see that it helped me with my interpersonal life, you know, I’m a better public speaker now, I’m more sociable, stuff like that.”

“I started CSA by joining the dance teams,” President Murray said, recounting her own journey joining CSA. “I was on CSA Bloodline, which is our advanced hip-hop team. Then, I started my CSA e-board journey by being the next captain for bloodline and being the performance chair. I started having more friends and getting to know more people. At the time I was really close to transferring… once I joined CSA I gained a lot of new friends and not only that, but I learned how to mature myself and grow as a person just through being on e-board.”

CSA also collaborates with other Asian student organizations, such as Lambda Phi Epsilon. 

“Usually we do more cultural events with them, like this one was new for New Year’s, so we make red [envelopes]... any culture events that are coming up, like any holidays we have, if there’s an open program, we’ll just colab,” Jie Chen, President of Lambda Phi Epsilon and Treasurer of CSA said. 

Many collaborations happen on China Night, according to Zheng, who said, “It’s one of our biggest events. Every Asian organization on this campus, and other orgs, perform at the Egg. It's such a cool way to showcase our skills.”

This year’s China Night will be held on April 26 at the Egg. The event generally showcases dance performances, fashion, and Asian culture. Most of the Asian culture groups and Asian majority Greek life groups attend. Tickets are available on eventbrite.

Murray spoke more on CSA, highlighting the community that the organization is able to foster. 

“We always encourage our e-board to talk to almost every single person at our event… especially when people seem like they’re alone, we try to encourage them to talk to everyone,” Murray said. “I’m really happy that our e-board continues to do the job that they do — basically making everything really welcoming. Although some people may not be Chinese, we still encourage them to participate in activities. That’s how we get a very diverse group of people every time.”

UAlbany students who are interested in CSA can find out more on their MyInvolvement page, their website, or their Instagram page (@csa_albany).


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