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Rochelle Cruz-Duyan '02 knows the importance of embracing cultural differences.

Few people are as connected to Connecticut College as Rochelle Cruz-Duyan '02. The alumna was married at Harkness Chapel eight days after graduating, found her first job as an international trade legal assistant through CELS and now works at the College as the senior assistant and paralegal to Ulysses Hammond, vice president for administration.

In part because of her many ties to the College, Cruz-Duyan, who also serves as the secretary for the Connecticut College Alumni of Color (CCAC), was selected by Unity House as convocation speaker for Asian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month in April.

"This month is about taking the time to understand a different culture," she said. "We are fortunate to live at a point when people are more aware of cultural differences and embrace rather than shun them."

Her talk, which will take place from 7-9 p.m. on Monday, April 6, in the 1941 Room in Cro, is titled, "The American Dream: One Filipino's Journey." Students Maywadee Chinavanichkit '09 and Janet Tso '12 will also speak at the event.

The daughter of Filipino immigrants, Cruz-Duyan will focus on her own life experiences, which began in her hometown, New London. Growing up with immigrant parents could be challenging, she said, since her parents' values and American culture would often clash. It was difficult for Cruz-Duyan to find her place.

"There is a certain way that people think Asians are supposed to act or be and in reality many Asians, myself included, do not fit into that mold," she said.  

Cruz-Duyan, who plans to attend law school in 2010, believes every step along the way has been shaped by her parents and culture.

"My parents came here to chase the American dream and in some ways, my life is a continuation of that journey, trying to obtain what they failed to," she said.

Additional events celebrating Asian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month will take place throughout April.

-Rachel Harrington

March 20, 2009