Most Outstanding Cultural Program Nomination: Vietnamese Student Association at the University of Georgia – Night in Saigon
Through skits, dances, songs, and more, Night in Saigon is a Vietnamese culture show dedicated to promoting the Vietnamese culture and heritage to the audience. Not only to educate those who are interested in learning more of the culture, but to raise awareness of the ever-changing Vietnamese-American identity among the audience members. Our objectives are to: (1) Preserve and promote Vietnamese culture, identify and address issues impacting the Vietnamese community, (2) provide opportunities for local businesses to promote their products and services to the Vietnamese-American community of Athens, (3) raise funds to support our philanthropic cause (UNAVSA’s CPP; this year was the Catalyst Foundation), and (4) bring together Vietnamese youth and provide them with opportunities for leadership development and community service.
Night in Saigon 13 took place on Saturday, January 14th, 2017. There were approximately 100 student volunteers from UGA VSA and almost 700 attendees this year. Members participated in the following committees: Logistics, Entertainment, Sponsorship, Food, Decorations, Advertising, and Skit. This year’s theme, Gifts of the Past, focuses on the social issues and emotional disconnect between parents and their children.
This year, we faced a major financial obstacle: needing $20,000 to put on the event. This resulted from the need to change venues to a drastically more expensive one due to a scheduling conflict. Therefore, we had to fundraise through the Vietnamese American community and UGA campus community as well as gather a lot of sponsors. Fundraising wise, we focused on voter registration by winning a phone banking contest and being the most politically involved VSA around the time of the presidential election. In sponsorships, we reached out to local Vietnamese businesses as well as Athens businesses and were able to gather $9,000 in sponsorship money.
Our marketing techniques involved a large social media presence with Facebook profile picture frames, a consistently updated Facebook event page, and promotional videos. We also posted flyers around campus and local restaurants as well as had our members paint an advertisement on the street.
We released an evaluation form to the public and held an EBoard meeting to discuss the responses.
How did this cultural program serve the campus and/or community?
Campus-wise, Night in Saigon 13 provided students with a perspective on the Vietnamese American lifestyle and the struggles arising within this population. Under International Student Life, the Vietnamese Student Association serves to support inclusivity and diversity on campus. Night in Saigon 13 garners attendance from students from all organizations on campus.
Community-wise, Night in Saigon unites the entire Southeast once a year and is the ONLY culture show in the Southeast to garner attendance from ALL VSAs in our region. We have attendees from not only UGA, but Clayton State, GATech, Emory, GSU, FSU, UF, USF, UWF, UCF, Memphis, UNCC, USC, Mercer, Auburn, etc. This year, we even had members of UVSA Gulf Coast attend. The show also has a large number of parents in attendance as well as adults involved in both of the Vietnamese American Communities in Georgia.
How did the cultural program meet goals set by the organization?
Through our skit, we were able to paint the struggles between the 1st and 2nd generation Vietnamese Americans. We highlighted both the present and the past. By contrasting the child’s experiences and the parent’s experiences, we were able to emphasize the drastically different struggles that they faced growing up. In contrast to the war-torn past of the parents, the current generation struggles more with mental health and expectations of their parents, a pressure we aimed to portray in the skit.
Through our performances, we were able to showcase the talents of VSA members through dance, singing, magic, spoken word, etc. The acts provided breaks between the emotional skit to allow the audience to take a breather from the severity of the topic. Our traditional dance, lion dance, and fashion show demonstrated the beauty of the Vietnamese culture.
Financially, we exceeded both fundraising and sponsorship goals we set for ourselves. We surpassed our fundraising goal of $3,000 ending up with over $4,000 in fundraised money. In sponsorship money, we raised $2,000 more than the goal of $7,000. We ended up with a profit of $6,600, approximately $1,000 more than the year before, and the majority of that money will go toward the Catalyst Foundation, allowing us to also surpass our goal of raising more money than Night in Saigon 12.
Our overall goal was to provide a show that takes the audience on a roller coaster ride of emotions allowing them to step into the shoes of a Vietnamese American and I believe we accomplished that.
How did the organization overcome any challenges that arose while planning and implementing the cultural program?
Night in Saigon 13 was not an easy show to put on. Once we figured out one problem, we were hit with another obstacle. However, we were able to handle each one well to pull off a successful show.
The first obstacle we had to overcome was finding a new venue. Rather than rescheduling our show and conflicting with another school’s show and losing a large number of attendees, we decided to find a new venue, and the new venue turned out to be much more expensive as well has harder to work with as there were many more rules and restrictions. We were able to overcome this by making compromises in our decoration designs and finding creative ways to decorate the venue without breaking the rules. By hosting many fundraisers, dedicating our time to different events, the generosity of the Vietnamese American communities, and the attendance of our guests, we were able to raise enough money to afford the venue as well as all other expenses.
The school also converted our dance room into a Starbucks, so we had to search for another room for our dancers to practice in which resulted in less practice time and lack of preparation. We made up for the lack of preparation by giving them a detailed timeline on the day of the show so they could focus on their dance and only have to come to the stage once it was time for them to rehearse.
Additionally, we ran into many last minute problems and realized the venue was completely different than our usual venue. Since we weren’t able to access it until the day of, our Logistics crew had to learn how to work everything the day of. To account for the However, in the end, we were able to overcome all obstacles and put on a successful show.
Link to additional marketing material: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B6x66DW2nN8BbE5NWEJJeFY5bU0
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1815022788787468/