Written by: Aditi Nambiar; Editor-in-Chief
The Indian Student Association (ISA) at UW Bothell is a cultural club which aims to bring representation to the Indian community and create a sense of belonging for students, while also spreading cultural awareness on-campus. As President of ISA, Amal Manohar shares, “the main goal of our club is to create a space where everyone feels like they are a part of something bigger than just going to university, and our main purpose is to make sure our cultural values are being spread with everyone, and we just want to have a sense of belonging with all the brown people here.”
ISA was originally founded in 2018 by former student and president of the club, Dev Mathur. The position was then transferred to Jay Vakil in 2020, who recently graduated in Winter 2022. Manohar has since been serving as President of ISA after starting as Vice President this year. Serving as Vice President of ISA since the transition is Sundeep Sharma, UWB senior. The current board also consists of a team of student directors and general officers who manage the various operations of the club.
This quarter, ISA has been involved in and hosted two of their biggest events on campus since the pandemic, Heritage Night and Desi Night 2022. Heritage Night is an annual cultural showcase event hosted by the UWB Black Student Union in collaboration with other cultural clubs on campus, which aims to celebrate the students’ identities and the cultural diversity of UWB through traditional food, dance, fashion, and more.
This year, the Indian Student Association joined BSU for the first time to host the celebration in May along with the Filipino American Student Association (FASA), the Arab Student Association (ASA), and the UWB Student Association For Immigrants & Refugees (SAFIR).
The planning process was extensive with all the details involved in putting together such a large scale collaborative event. Manohar recalls the initial process of bringing about the event, which has been on pause since when the pandemic started, stating “Around February or January, [BSU] had reached out to us through Instagram and they were asking if we would like to collaborate with them for this event” and the planning process took two months of weekly meetings to put together a successful night of community celebration.”
The club was awarded Best Collaboration at the 2022 Club Council Recognition Banquet for their work in putting together the event with BSU, ASA, FASA, and SAFIR.
Spring quarter has been one of the busiest for the club as they were simultaneously organizing their annual event, Desi Night, in collaboration with the South Asian Student Association (SASA) of UWB. The two clubs have collaborated for past Desi Nights as well, and join together frequently for general club meetings and other events throughout the year.
Manohar states, “This time, when ISA collabed with SASA, ISA wasn’t as big as it is now so this time our board is pretty strong. We have a 100+ members in our club. We were really happy to be a part of the planning committee, and we actually started planning in January but we started talking about the collab way back in November so it’s been a pretty long journey.”
As they were approaching Desi Night, Manohar and the ISA wanted to take their event promotion to the next level to spread the word and have as many students as possible attend. The senior shares, “Around two to three weeks before the event, we were like, we need more promotional material because SASA UW is also hosting an event on the same day that we are so… so that’s when I kind of brought up the idea of putting together a little video project and we got on a meeting with all of the board members for what we wanted to do.”
Manohar directed, edited, and acted in the video along with his board member and co-star, Tarun Veeraraghavan, ISA Director of Marketing and third-year student at UWB. The promo project was based on Veeraraghavan’s idea for the event’s witty caption on Instagram, “I miss her but I missed Desi Night more,” which went along with the post officially announcing the event date. The senior explains how that idea came about, stating “Something that me and Tarun wanted to do when we started to market the event was to make the process fun because when something’s fun people tend to interact with it more [and] people are like ‘Oh that’s funny!’ you know?”
The team started brainstorming for creative caption ideas, but nothing seemed to click until Veeraraghavan’s big idea. Manohar explains, “Tarun came up with the caption, ‘I miss her but I missed Desi Night more’ and I was all for it the second he told me. And then, we have a group chat [with] ISA and SASA, and he put that idea in the group chat because everyone was deciding to do one of the basic captions and he was like, ‘I’m actually thinking of doing this’ and everyone was like, ‘Are you being serious?’ and we were like ‘Yeah, we’re being a hundred percent serious’! And everyone was like, ‘Yeah it’s actually funny, let’s go with it’!”
The video comically tells the story of a low-spirited student, fresh out of heartbreak, who looks forward to attending Desi Night with his friends for a fun night away from the heartache. It also highlighted the performances for the night, with behind the scenes of the dance clubs rehearsing for their performance at the event.
Manohar and Veeraraghavan were joined by Ishika Nayyar, Events Coordinator at SASA for the making of the video. The ISA President states, “I also spent three nights working on the editing, adding music to it, adding the sound effects and all of that. Once we kind of wrapped all that up, we started showing it to the club board members and close friends to kind of get some reviews and feedback and once we got a sense that everyone liked it, we were like ‘Okay, let’s post this.’”
Veeraraghavan shares how releasing the video was a nerve-wracking experience, stating “We put so much work into it and we were nervous about how the public was going to respond to the video… We wanted to make the video funny, that was our main goal. I was really nervous because I was personally in the video, and Amal was also, so I was really heavily critical of the video, but the general reaction was good so I feel really proud of that.”
Desi Night was hosted on May 20th this year, and was an enjoyable night of celebrating South Asian culture through music, dance, and cultural performances with over 280 attendees. The event notably featured UWB Bhangra, the Bhangra (traditional folk dance of Punjab) dance club on campus as well as the debut performance of UWB’s new South Asian dance club, Nitya. This was ISA and SASA’s first Desi Night since the pandemic, making it a night to remember.
In addition to Desi Night, another accomplishment that the ISA board takes pride in are the ISA hoodies they designed last year, as it was a large project that they put a lot of effort into making happen. Manohar explains, “our ex-president designed ISA hoodies and that was something we were and still are proud of because it was a big process. I remember Jay talking about how it was a big process to get the logo on the hoodie, and to get it to all our members was a lot of work, but that was something I’m really proud of.”
ISA hosts an average of three events and three to four general meetings per quarter, and the club wanted to end the year off strong with one last celebration to recognize the graduating seniors and bid them a proper farewell. Manohar shares, “Me and my board members were planning to do something the week before finals to kind of end the year on a good note and also do something for the seniors that are graduating… And I will also step down as President and pass it along to people that will be in the club for the next couple years.”
As he is graduating by the end of spring quarter, Manohar will appoint a new President and Vice President to take over for ISA until they do official re-elections at the start of Fall 2022. He states, “ In terms of the President and Vice President of the club, something that I would really look for [as] President is to [have them] take charge and be in control of leading the club and kind of be an example because the President is the face of the club… I want them to be the face of ISA and make sure that our mission statement and goals of the club are being spread.”
During the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, ISA had to adapt to the circumstances together. ISA Director of Marketing, Veeraraghavan recalls, “it was fall quarter that the school was shut down… So we had online Zoom meetings [and] played [online games] on Discord or Zoom. It was fun, but really we got back into gear during the winter quarter, when we got back to having in-person meetings… Everyone showed up, they had masks, we had a requirement to wear masks so that’s how we tackled that during Covid… we kept everything sanitary and safe.”
ISA welcomes any and all students to get involved with the club. To be a member, students just have to join ISA’s Discord, attend some of the meetings, and follow/keep up with the club on Instagram. “We are welcoming anyone”! says Manohar. For Veeraraghavan and Manohar, being a part of the club has been a life-changing experience. Veeraraghavan shares, “Before I joined ISA, I didn’t really know many brown people around campus and ever since I joined, I seem to know everyone around campus, it’s more lively, you just walk around campus, you say how to one of your members that you know, you talk about your day.”
Manohar gained some valuable skills from his time at ISA, stating, “Some of the skills that I’ve learned are definitely leadership skills. Being able to communicate with everyone when there’s an issue or resolve problems, and also being able to work with other clubs [in] collaboration, and also putting events together so I’m pretty sure all of us gained a lot of skills that are useful for skills that we can use after we graduate as well.”
As for Manohar, being President was not exactly the plan from the start. He shares, “I was never really interested in leading the club or anything, I only became Vice President because my friends asked me to be Vice President. So when I joined the club initially as Vice President, it was really nice to kind of be that person to all the members and board members because you have that power to make change, you have that power to create that cultural awareness among people, you have that power to connect all [those] people together.”
With their close knit connections and welcoming energy, the club community has been growing significantly, feeling like a second home to all its members. Reflecting on his time with the club Manohar shares, “ISA has become really really big… we know all our board members and members on campus and off campus and it just feels like a really big family.”