Emilie Tumale, Director of Staff Development

I am in UniPro because this organization has given me a sense of purpose as one of the very few Filipino American Ph.D students in New York City. My story differs from most staff members of UniPro NY in that I do not have a background in FIND or D3. There’s literally only one person I know from home that is even remotely familiar with UniPro. Moreover, I’m here because I’m here to set the record straight. In no way am I your stereotypical west coast Filipino. I am so proud of my UCLA education but I never performed in a PCN. I have never been president of any organization I have been in. I didn’t have a single preexisting social connection to UniPro. I joined this organization on my own, not knowing what to expect in my first staff meeting.

Nevertheless, I continue to be involved in UniPro because I care about its work deeply. I have been impressed with what this organization has been able to do, given the size of its staff. Not only is UniPro NY well connected to a large network of Filipino Americans in Metropolitan New York, but it is also connected to other chapters in each region of the United States (I’m literally working on this bio at a Chicago AirBnB I’m sharing with other Filipino Americans from NYC and Texas). This is an experience I could never have if I didn’t move across the country. There would have been no reason for me to search for a community of like-minded individuals if I stayed in LA (that network really isn’t that vast tbh). But most importantly, being in UniPro has allowed me to connect with a whole new generation of Filipino American scholars and community organizers. It is so fulfilling to be able to bring Filipino American studies to those who have never been able to have that kind of education in their university. I also love being exposed to Fil-Am perspectives outside of what California has to offer, even if it makes me feel uncomfortable at times. I am a person with high standards, but I ultimately am impressed by our organization’s potential to make a difference here in New York and beyond.

The short story is that the internet brought me here. To elaborate, I did Summer Activist Training in LA back in 2013 and being part of that network of community organizers made me realize how small the community at home truly is. Nevertheless, I saw a list of Filipino American organizations that had internships, and for some reason, UniPro was the only NYC-based organization mentioned. I checked their website and followed them on social media, but I couldn’t find any information about general meetings and had no visual exposure to the organization other than the summit pictures on the website. Fortunately, Stephanie Chrispin, a former president of the NY chapter, was paneling for NYU IFA. I literally attended that first IFA meeting to connect with her and at least have one familiar face for when I attended my first UniPro staff meeting.

I sought out and joined UniPro out of necessity. Not only did I move to NYC without knowing anyone involved in this kind of work, but I was also felt extremely lonely as the only Asian American in all of my classes during my first semester at NYU. I felt *too old* to be part of IFA and I didn’t feel seen as a person of color by my peers and that was disheartening. Worst of all, I felt like the only Filipino American Ph.D student at NYU Steinhardt, and it still feels like that is the case two years into my program. I have learned to get along with my colleagues, but my involvement in UniPro has made a huge difference in allowing that to be even possible. The Filipino American community here has even given me a completely different dissertation topic than what I expected to do initially. I may not have grown up or competed (heh) with this community, but I am excited to be part of what UniPro NY has to offer. Currently I’m the Director of Staff Development. If you would like to learn more about UniPro and/or would like to collaborate with us for the sake of professional development and relevant education, feel free to email me at emilie.tumale@unipronow.org