May marks Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month—a time to recognize the many contributions of the AAPI community and honor how the community’s history, culture and achievements have enriched our lives. In celebration of the rich AAPI heritage shared by our employees, we asked
“How has your heritage shaped who you are, both personally and professionally?”
My heritage as a Vietnamese has a tremendous impact on who I am, both personally and professionally. Education always occupies an important place in society and family for me. Because of that, I was able to overcome challenges and excel in school in the United States. Being from Vietnam, I was exposed to many opportunities and privileges. I grew up being taught to be patient, humble and resilient. That helps me tremendously, both as an expat and an architect.
Filipinos have a unique, mixed heritage. While they experience the cultural influences of their Asian neighbors: China and Japan, they were also a Spanish colony, similar to much of South America, as well as a U.S. territory. My grandfather fought in the Asia-Pacific war in World War II under the U.S. flag, but wasn’t recognized officially as a veteran until he was in his 80s.
I grew up in Queens, New York, which has the highest rate of racial and ethnic variety of all populous counties in the nation. I blended in with many groups of people and kept a diverse group of friends. Given the mixed heritage and influences (yet I’m still 100% Filipina), I feel comfortable not fitting into stereotypical boxes. I embraced my husband’s common last name and enjoy people’s reactions when they meet me. Ultimately, it helps give me perspective and makes it easier to see multiple angles to a situation.
Cathy Morrison, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, NCARB
Growing up, supper time was my favorite part of each day, mainly because I love Vietnamese cuisine. However, supper was also the time when my family was the closest and I got to hear about my parents’ day. I also got to share what I learned in school, and sometimes learned the recipes for our family’s dishes, too.
Although my mother is an excellent cook, she was better at teaching financial independence through her actions. She taught us that nothing in this world is free—it either costs time or costs money. Her first job in the U.S. was working at a local shoe factory near the Nashville airport. She knew this wasn’t the life she wanted and began studying at cosmetology school, where she became a nail technician. Within a decade, my mother was able to start her own nail salon and work to gain financial independence. These experiences have helped me become a better engineer and project lead by teaching me how to set goals, budget my time and money, and keep myself accountable.
Jimmy Nguyen, P.E.
My heritage has embedded values in me to serve my faith, my family and my friends with gratitude. I am grateful that I have a strong family bond and am able to respect and reciprocate the love and affection at home. I am so thankful for all that I have learned from my parents and hope to continue to take care of them. I look forward to continuing to be a reflection of honesty and humility as the core principles in life.
Ravi Wood, AIA
BIM Model Manager
My heritage made me the resilient person that I am today. The limitations of what I can or can’t do are based on my willingness to go after my goals. As a first-generation Asian American, my role is to support my family. Coming to America with only two dollars makes it hard to take anything for granted, especially when your parents already sacrificed so much.
Sivilay Xayasaene, NCIDQ