By: Kyle Har
Cal Poly’s Japanese Student Association (JSA) President is different than most presidents of ethnic clubs on campus. JSA president and sophomore business major William Kriss does not come from a Japanese background. Despite his alternative background, Kriss always felt “accepted” and “comfortable.”
“Initially, I did not join JSA because I am white,” Kriss said. “I thought they would just be like ‘who is this kid,’ but eventually I did join, and I really liked it.”
According to Kriss, before joining the club, he was pretty quiet and he never saw himself getting into the position he currently is in.
“But because it was something I felt accepted into and I felt really comfortable, it helped me get out of my shell,” Kriss said.
Being the president of JSA, Kriss sees that he has two main categories of duties.
The first is from “the outside” in which he hypes up members to get them to come to events, coordinates with other clubs and presents Japanese culture slides in club meetings.
According to Kriss, the culture slides teach JSA members about Japanese language, food, holidays, etc.
“The culture slides are fun because I must have to look those up because I do not really know anything,” Kriss said. “I get to learn a lot and I get to teach everyone which is fun.”
In addition to presenting culture slides, Kriss tries to bring club members closer together by coordinating weekend events which usually involve food. While these events attract bigger crowds, Kriss feels that smaller hangouts bring “people closer together.”
For example, JSA will host a gathering called Ocha-Kai which is Japanese for tea time. According to Kriss, JSA reserves a room every Friday and they will bring tea, snacks and video games.
“I think the people who come to [Ocha-Kai] feel most connected to the club,” Kriss said. “That is how everyone gets closer.”
The second category of Kriss’s duties involves the JSA board members. According to Kriss, there are 11 other board members alongside him.
“Internally, I try to get the board members to do the best they can and hopefully grow up and do well,” Kriss said.
Through all of his duties, Kriss tries to represent the club’s mission statement. According to Cal Poly’s club directory page, the Japanese Student Association is a cultural club focused on spreading and appreciating the Japanese culture within the club and Cal Poly as a whole.
While the aim of JSA is to “appreciate and spread” Japanese culture, it is also a community. For example, JSA has group chats with every single member in it. For Kriss it shows him that the club sees him as not just some “random dude.”
“Things like that make me feel like I am part of something bigger,” Kriss said.