Aaron Parayno named new director of Asian American Center

The Asian American Center is pictured on Nov. 20, 2017. Seohyun Shim / The Tufts Daily Archives

An email sent out to students on behalf of Raymond Ou, senior associate dean of student affairs, announced Aaron Parayno as the new director of the Asian American Center. Parayno served as assistant director of the Asian American Center at Northeastern and supported student programs at both Babson College and Boston College. His arrival follows the recent departure of Linell Yugawa, who served as director of the Center and retired after 30 years of leadership. 

The committee involved in Parayno’s selection consisted of Kamaro Abubakar, assistant dean of student affairs; Firdaus Gupte, a graduate student intern; Kareem Khubchandani, an assistant professor in theater, dance and performance; Katrina Moore, director of the Africana Center; Ritu Sharma, a staff psychologist; and Eddie Si Kun Wang and Amanda Yuan, who are both undergraduate students.

“Among a pool of highly qualified candidates, Aaron stood out to our search committee for his passion for student equity, community, and meaningful support for marginalized populations,” the July 22 email said.

Wang, a junior echoed the email’s positive sentiments, noting that Parayno’s casual way of speaking during the interview made him stand out.

“His [Parayno’s] talk was therapy and he knew how to answer questions in a correct way…be casual but know how to be formal at the same time … it’s important to let the audience understand where you’re coming from and that’s something that stuck out to me about him,” Wang said in a phone interview with the Daily.

Wang also commented on Parayno’s interview process and topics of discussion.

“During the interview, he mentioned a lot of things about super race theory and a lot about higher-ed…[Parayno] focused on intersectionality and how we explore our different identities,” he stated.

Khubchandani has had an active presence in the Center. He indicated that last year he gave an evening discussion about accents, desire and sexuality and held office hours for students organizing the event.  As a member of the search committee, he emphasized that Parayno’s overall knowledge and experience made him a well-qualified candidate for the position.

“I think that his [Parayno’s] knowledge of both the academy and history of the university alongside his extensive understanding of what Asian America is really made him stand out,” he said.

Khubchandani emphasized that Parayno was able to make these historical aspects easily understandable for students.

“Being able to translate those into things that students would want to engage with, be excited about would really help students understand their own experiences through the lens of history and politics was what I thought really set him apart,” he said.

Gupte also shared his excitement at Parayno’s arrival. As an intern for the Center, Gupte informs students through newsletters and helps organize faculty events and discussions.

Gupte indicated that Parayno’s experience made him a great fit for the job of director of the Asian American Center.

“He definitely had a lot of experience … it felt like he would connect with students well,” Gupte said.

However, with this change in leadership, Gupte hopes the Center will host more events for graduate students to increase their presence in the community. Gupte indicated that Parayno showed interest in encouraging greater involvement.

In an interview with the Daily, Parayno, spoke about how he first learned of the job opportunity. 

“I knew Linell just by doing the work and being in close proximity to Tufts … when we had heard earlier in the spring semester that Linell was retiring and that they would be posting for her position I just thought it was a great opportunity and the next professional step for me,” he said.

Parayno also noted that he wanted to move to an institution like Tufts because of its smaller student population, which would allow him to build better relationships with students and staff alike.

As director of the Center, he seeks to work with other communities at Tufts.

“One of the things that I want to do at the Center is to really think about collaboration across communities. Often times it becomes really easy just to silo yourself without seeing the other ways you can support other communities or be supported by other communities,” he stated.

Parayno emphasized that in order to be successful, it is important to ensure each center at Tufts supports the others.

“We want to make sure we are supporting each other … our common goals are the students,” Parayno said.

He added that he hopes to encourage students to expand their thinking beyond racial identity.

“We all carry multiple flailing identities and I‘d think it would be a disservice to really just focus on racial identity when our intersecting identities are important as well,” he noted.

Correction: A previous version of this article misquoted Aaron Parayno saying “super race theory.” In fact, Parayno said “critical race theory.” The article has been updated to reflect this change. The Daily regrets this error.