School of Business

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Valerie Suryanto - AAPI Month

By Megan Nash

Valerie Suryanto (B.A. ’25), an Honors College student and active member of Alpha Kappa Psi, is making strides in cultural representation and leadership within the VCU community. Born to Indonesian immigrant parents, Valerie’s heritage has shaped her identity and commitment to academic and personal excellence. Through her roles in various campus organizations, she’s working to create inclusive environments that honor diverse backgrounds.

Read on to learn about Valerie’s inspirations, and how she blends her cultural roots with her aspirations at VCU.

Can you tell us a bit about your background and what your heritage means to you?

I was born and raised in Leesburg, Va., to two immigrant parents who came from Indonesia. Indonesia comprises many islands, which is why my family is a mix of many things: my dad is Javanese, my mother is Ambonese and my grandmother is also half Chinese. With such a mix, I am fortunate enough to experience very different traditions from each part of my family, such as lifestyles, food and holidays like Lunar New Year or Indonesian Independence Day, the way we speak to others or how we dress. I also have one older sister, and many cousins in the area, so growing up, I was able to be surrounded by and in tune with my heritage, especially with the rest of my cousins who had to balance both American and Indonesian customs in a predominantly white area.

Heritage, to me, is everything. It is a bridge from my parents’ past to where we are now. It reminds me of the sacrifices and hardships that my parents made to assimilate into American culture and work to get me through college. I am proud to celebrate my heritage not just during AAPI month but at every family function through my music, fashion and the work I do in and outside of VCU. Every decision revolves around the values that my parents have instilled in me, which take root in my heritage.

How has your cultural heritage shaped your personal and academic journey? Are there any clubs or organizations on campus that have helped you connect with your cultural heritage?

My cultural heritage has shaped both my personal and academic journey because I relate everything back to my parents. They have supported me in any decision I make, from all the practices and competitions they drove me to, to choosing VCU and being happy about the career path I am heading toward now. My parents make me want to strive for academic excellence, but they’ve also taught me to be grateful for being a student and learning what I can. I think this can be applied to the future as well–just to be grateful for whatever experience or challenge that comes my way because it can sometimes give you that edge or help you grow.

When I was a freshman, I joined Filipino Americans Coming Together (FACT) to find a social group and people that may have had a similar upbringing as me. Although I was not super active, it helped me connect with a diverse group of people, and I made great friendships from the Kuya/Ate (Big/Little) program.

Can you discuss the significance of representation in leadership and community programs? Are there any challenges you’ve faced and overcame as an AAPI leader?

One of my guiding principles before entering the professional world is having a diverse and inclusive work environment, especially in leadership. It is important to have representation in leadership and community programs because it can bring motivation and support for those who may not feel like their voices are heard or acknowledged. Everyone has unique backgrounds, which means they have different needs and struggles that can be addressed through leadership initiatives.

I am fortunate to have leadership experience in the VCU student community, such as being Executive Vice President of Public Relations for Alpha Kappa Psi (AKPSI), a professional co-ed business fraternity, as well as Marketing Director and Graphic Design Chair. In this role, it is my goal and challenge to ensure that I am using my position to make sure that the diverse needs of members are heard and addressed because I want to continue fostering a comfortable and welcoming environment for those who want to professionally and personally grow. This was my first impression of AKPSI as well as VCU in general, so I want to continue that attitude and hopefully make it better.

Do you have any role models within the AAPI community who have inspired you? Do you have any favorite AAPI brands, creators, etc. that you’d like to share?

An influencer in the AAPI community who has inspired me is Ashley Alexander, a content creator that I have been following for a while. I enjoy her content because she is not only authentic and entertaining, but she shares her experience being Asian-American and all the challenges she has faced building her brand and business activities as well as personal challenges that I can relate to.

Another AAPI business that I would like to share is DUA DC COFFEE, a local woman-owned Indonesian coffee shop in Washington, D.C. Not only do I love the Indonesian specialty drinks, but they use single-origin beans from various islands of Indonesia that are sourced from farms that practice sustainable coffee production. Not only is the coffee culture in Indonesia huge, but their business also focuses on creativity and community, which is a big part of Indonesian hospitality. This business has a special place in my heart because it is one of the few Indonesian businesses in the Northern Virginia area, and my dad was the interior designer of the coffee shop. It was inspiring to see my dad’s vision come to life and see how his culture influenced the interior design of the shop. Hopefully, I can do something similar and contribute to the Asian-American community in some way.

Is there anything you would like to add?

I am very proud to be Asian-American, and I want to continue using my experiences and knowledge to uplift and educate others. Thank you for using me to celebrate AAPI month!

For more AAPI celebrations, follow us on the VCU Business LinkedIn and Instagram pages throughout the month of May!     

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