Monday, May 22, 2023

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Looking back at UF’s Asian American Pacific Islander history

AAPI students journey of advocacy and education

By Garrett Shanley Alligator Staff Writer

Wong attended UF during a period marked by anti-Chinese sentiment across the U.S. Intolerance towards Chinese Americans resulted in the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which barred the immigration of Chinese laborers to the U.S. and made it significantly harder for Chinese students to study at American universities.

Despite widespread prejudice, Wong graduated from UF with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and was held in high regard by his peers.

Emma Hayakawa

‘Unsettling’: Asian American locals criticize Florida bills targeting China

restricting Chinese citizens from purchasing real estate in Florida.

“This bill legalized discrimination, and it’s absurd,” she said.

By Jacob Sedesse & Amanda Friedman

Baseball Gators secure SEC championship. Read more on pg. 11

Yi, the vice principal of the HuaGen Chinese School in Gainesville, is one among the many frustrated Asian American and Pacific Islander locals speaking out against three bills signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis aimed at limiting the Chinese Communist Party’s influence on


On May 26, 1916, The Alligator reported that Wong presented a paper

to the Agricultural Club “on ‘The Agriculture of China,’ which he read to the enjoyment of all.”

Wong attended UF when the total number of Asian students remained in the single digits. Over a century later, UF is home to nearly 5,500 AAPI students, an Asian American student union, and an Asian American studies minor.

UF alumnus Phillip Cheng examined Wong in the history of Asian American UF students in his 2019 thesis.

The research for his thesis began with a question.

“If I was a brand new student at UF [walking] down the halls of the Reitz Union or some other high traffic area, and I saw images of Asian American students on the walls from the 1900s, from the ‘30s, from the

UF Asian American Pacific Islander students connect with their cultures on campus


By Nicole Beltrán Alligator Staff Writer

“I feel like that’s kind of how my culture is instilled in me,” Khondaker said.

Khondaker, a 20-year-old UF student, has

noticed that AAPI representation around campus is growing. Outside the classroom, students have made an effort to celebrate and understand their identities amongst their extracurricular and curricular commitments.

Khondaker, the internal vice president of Society of Asian Student Engineers, has met other Bengali and Muslim students through the UF SASE, she said.

“I’ve met a lot of people that are like minded to me,” Khondaker said.

Having the opportunity to associate with Bengali



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OPINIONS: Alligator managing editors, former editor reflects Columns share perspectives on AAPI month, pg. 6 Locals feel represented with ‘Gainesville’s Chinatown’ Residents and students make frequent visits, pg. 7 MONDAY, MAY 22, 2023 VOLUME 117 ISSUE 33
// Alligator Staff

UF community condemns bill defunding DEI initiatives


Some UF students are condemning a state bill that limits Florida’s colleges and universities from spending money on diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law May 15. It denies public colleges from offering courses that “distort significant historical events,” teach “identity politics” or are “based on theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression or privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, or economic inequities.”

The Black Student Union and Black Student Leaders at UF released a joint statement May 20 denouncing DeSantis signing the bill.

The organizations expressed heavy concerns over the bill’s pow-

er to silence minority voices.

“This bill works to erase the accomplishments that people of color have worked toward for centuries while harming the efforts and protections set in place to make students of color feel represented on their college campuses in the state of Florida,” the UF BSU wrote.

With this year marking 55 years of the organization at UF, there is an overwhelming concern regarding the idea of freedom and expression, according to the UF BSU.

The organization urgently requested prohibiting the bill from interfering with cultural efforts.

The statement from BSU also encouraged students to contact university administration to express their concerns about the bill’s impact.

BSU will continue to commit itself to cultivating a community, according to its statement.

Contradictions between the DEI bill and the K-12 AAPI education bill have raised concerns over where the government’s interest lies.

“The contradictory approaches

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to DEI and the passage of the K-12 AAPI education bill speaks to the control that white supremacy has over the Model Minority Myth, “ said Joaquin Rafaele Marcelino, a student government senator and founder of the Pan-Asian Caucus. While the K-12 AAPI educational bill will uplift Asian American communities, it doesn't take away from the detriment of the DEI bill nor our support for other groups impacted, they said.


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Asian American-owned Coterie Market turns pop-up into brick-and-mortar store


While attending local farmers markets, Kate Yeung noticed the lack of representation of Asian American business owners among the vendors.

“[Diversity] brings a different perspective… through the potential products that businesses can include… the demographic that businesses focus on… and the overall success of the business,” Yeung said.

The 23-year-old Gainesville resident left her 9-to-5 banker job to start her own business, Coterie Market, empowered by her family’s experience owning businesses in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Currently a superfood latte pop-up, Coterie Market aims to provide a space where Asian American residents and international students can feel comfortable.

The business plans to open a brick-andmortar store located at 206 NW 10th Ave. at the beginning of June.

Co-founders and co-owners Yeung and her 24-year-old partner Bradon Ramirez want to provide popular products from multiple cultures and diversify the business so everyone in Gainesville can feel represented.

Yeung feels pride in being an Asian American business owner, and she hopes that more

Asian Americans will feel encouraged to start businesses in Gainesville.

Yeung and Ramirez plan on inviting other Asian small business owners to apply to be vendors at the market, once they have officially opened their store. They joined Facebook groups and other social media that support local Asian business owners to promote this cause.

Similarly, they plan on including a variety of stationery in their store, which is very popular in Asian countries.

Yeung and Ramirez saw a gap in date night opportunities in Gainesville and wanted to provide workshops and event spaces for local couples.

They wanted to combine their favorite coffee shops, artisan shops and boutiques from around the world.

The couple wanted to create a space “where everyone can hang out together, and where they can relax and chill and not need you to be buying things [similar to a store],” Yeung said.

The market specializes in selling local products and services, hosting dried flower bouquet and fragrance-making events and selling superfood specialty lattes, which are nutrientdense powdered ingredients mixed with a customer’s choice of milk.

The couple traveled to New York, Atlanta, Portland and other cities to research and network with different specialty stores, coffee shops and potential vendors for their storefront.

Most recently, Coterie Market partnered with Eleven TLC, a company that creates latte

powders, teas and supplements. They collaborated on Coterie Market’s recent latte business addition and joined Eleven TLC at a coffee vendor convention in Portland in spring.

The group created unique flavors such as Cookie Butter, Orange Creamsicle and Banana Milk latte — which Yeung created based off of her childhood favorite, Korean banana milk.

Coterie Market plans on selling Eleven TLC’s products within its store as take-home latte powders.

Yeung and Ramirez planned to open the market the first week of January but they’re waiting for the building’s construction to finish.

“No matter how long this delay is going to take, we are going to stick with it [the building] because it is such a good location,we love the community [and] we love the people,” Yeung said. “I am just very grateful that the customers understand and the vendors understand, but when it does open that we make sure that this whole journey was worth it.”

The delay came from bylaw changes for construction supplies, changes within the design plan and other general setbacks.

Some setbacks are expected in construction, such as material delays, labor shortages and the changing of structural plans, Chris Thorndike, the building owner, said.

The building will house other local businesses and restaurants in addition to Coterie Market.

Thorndike described that one of the main challenges was due to the fact that there are

lots of moving pieces when it comes to construction. For example, once one thing is slowed down it can cause a domino effect and then everything else gets slowed down.

Thorndike wants to create a space that can easily become a home to anyone by accommodating a variety of local businesses in the building’s facilities, by making sure that each unit has the appropriate power, correct locations for appliances etc.

While Coterie Market waits for its official move-in day, the couple will continue to sell their specialty superfood lattes and dried flower bouquets at farmers markets and other local events for the rest of May.


Nathaniel Chan: City planning for a more inclusive community


Nathaniel Chan, 24, is a gay, Chinese American dedicated to using city planning to serve the community he loves. While his determination got him a position with the city, his path there was not always clear.

Like many college students, Chan struggled to pick a major.

“Anthropology really spoke to me because it was sort of this study of culture and people and community,” Chan said. “That’s kind of how I got into doing this kind of work.”

He stuck with that, along with environmental sciences,

through completion of his undergraduate studies at Florida Atlantic University. He quickly realized that he wasn’t sure what to do with his degree.

“So the next best guess is to go get another degree,” Chan said.

He continued his educational journey at UF, seeking a master’s in urban planning. Chan hoped to marry his interests in people, community, the built environment and improving quality of life across communities. Still, his next step was not obvious, he said.

“I think I actually took a test or quiz online that was like, ‘what can I do with my degree?’ and this [city planning] was one of them,” Chan said.

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Evelyn Miguel // Alligator Staff Kate Yeung and Braden Ramirez, owners of Coterie Market, prepare their new iced superfood latte at Working Food Community Kitchen on Saturday, May 20th, 2023. Evelyn Miguel // Alligator Staff Nathaniel Chan, a city planner, is seen at his office at the Thomas Center on Friday, May 19, 2023.

A century of advocacy

body, he said.

‘40s … how would that then impact my own ability to connect to the institution?” Cheng said.

When Cheng sat down with an adviser, he realized the question could only be answered with further research.

“I can't answer this question because there aren't actual photos of Asian students on the walls. So, why don't I go and find those students and put them on the walls?” Cheng said.

Cheng’s research led him from Smathers Library to the National Archives in San Bruno, California. There, Cheng found documentation of Wong and another Chinese student who attended UF in the early 20th century, L.B. Tan.

Like Wong, Tan was a student in the College of Agriculture and was held in high esteem by his peers for teaching fellow students about China’s fight for democracy, according to The Alligator in 1921.

Tan was highly regarded not only by his peers but also by UF president A.A. Murphree, who served from 1909 to 1927.

A series of letters in the UF Archives reveals what Cheng describes as a “sincere and close relationship” between Tan and the university president. In his letters, Murphree refers to Tan as a “bright young man” and “gifted as a public speaker.”

Wong and Tan were anomalies in the history of Asian American university students in the Exclusion Era, Cheng said.

“While in most parts of the country, Chinese students were experiencing a lot of discrimination, these students at UF were not,” Cheng said.

Cheng, a Stanford University graduate admissions systems analyst, is still invested in the Asian American history of the UF student

“It's still my goal to get people on the walls, physically and metaphorically speaking,” Cheng said.

Cheng compares UF to other universities that give recognition to their first Chinese students such as renaming dorms after them, he said.

“I don't think that we're anywhere close to that at UF,” Cheng said.

Cheng is not alone in his advocacy for Asian American visibility on campus.

In the early 1990s, the fight for Asian American resources at the university started. At the forefront of the fight was the initiative to create a single Asian student union to represent the entire Asian student body, according to the Asian Pacific Islander Desi Affairs office.

Previously, individual Asian groups had created their own organizations to celebrate, document and advocate for their heritage, including the Chinese American Student Association in 1948, the Vietnamese Student Organization in 1973 and the Indian Student Association and Filipino Student Association in the 1980s.

Requests for an Asian student union were initially denied by the university in 1992.

“Minority Affairs dean Willie Robinson said Asian students need to be more aggressive when they want something accomplished,” The Alligator wrote.

That same year, Volunteers for International Student Affairs and Reitz Union Program Office sponsored the first Asian Kaleidoscope Month which gave students an opportunity to celebrate Asian culture and discuss social issues.

In 1993, the Asian Student Union, known today as the Asian American Student Union, was officially formed. Today, the AASU unifies the Chinese American Student Asso-

ciation, Filipino Student Association, Korean Undergraduate Student Association, Vietnamese Student Organization and Health Educated Asian Leaders.

Since its creation, the AASU has advocated for social and political concerns. In 2003, the AASU held a demonstration in Turlington Plaza advocating for an Institute of Asian and Asian American Cultures at the university.

While UF administration did not fulfill the request for an Institute of Asian and Asian American Cultures, it has supported other initiatives to help the AAPI student body.

In 2005, the Dean of Students office announced it would hire a director of multicultural affairs and a graduate assistant for Asian and Pacific affairs, but not a director of Asian American Affairs. The graduate assistant for Asian and Pacific affairs position was held by Natalia Leal in 2005, Yuko Fujino from 2006 to 2007 and Taketo Nakao from 2007 to 2011.

Leah Villanueva became the first APIA director at UF in 2011. As APIA director, Villanueva took a loud stance against AAPI discrimination.

“Every time you’re silent about being mistreated, it gives the message that it’s OK to be discriminated,” Villanueva told Sparks Magazine. “So say it. Never doubt yourself.”

In 2010, the Asian Pacific Islander American Resource Room was established in Peabody Hall. The office later relocated to the Reitz Union in 2016 and was renamed to the Asian Pacific Islander Desi Affairs office in 2020.

The long history of Asian American activism has not gone unnoticed by UF students. The Asian American History Project, a part of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Project, records the experiences of Asian American students and faculty at UF.

The project focused on the history of Asian American student activism at UF but shifted focus to Filipino American UF students when Othelia Jumapao, a co-founder of the

Finding campus community

ON-CAMPUS, from pg. 1

and Muslim friends and family has been one of the most valuable ways she stays connected to her heritage on campus, she said.

She’s gone back to Bangladesh a few times, but she’s also been able to find a community here on campus when she can't experience her nationality firsthand, she said.

UF SASE has also given her the opportunity to teach others about her culture, such as Ramadan.

“We broke our fast together, but we invited our other friends in SASE to join us and experience our culture,” she said. “That was really nice because people were able to see Bengali food and some of the things that we do.”

Khondaker has also learned about her peers’ cultures.

The organization provides a place where people from similar backgrounds and engineering and science-related fields can come together, she said.

Like most ethnic organizations on

campus, UF SASE isn't exclusive to Asian ethnicity, but it’s helped students find a group that they feel they identify with.

AAPI month serves as a reminder for the students looking to learn more about their heritages, students who haven't had the experience to learn from home.

Yamilee Lopez, a 22-year-old UF art and psychology senior, racially identifies as Asian, yet she was raised in a Hispanic household.

“People would always label me as Asian and I kind of had mixed emotions and mixed identities about it,” Lopez said. “Being someone I didn't feel connected to.”

Lopez was born in Lima, Peru. Her great grandfather migrated from China to Peru. With limited knowledge of her family background, she’s now breaking down her culture by reading books and learning the language during her time at UF.

“I tried to take a semester of Mandarin just because I wanted to feel closer to myself and to my own identity,” she said.

Growing up in Miami, Lopez was surrounded by Hispanic communities but didn't see Asian Latinx communities too


Asian American History Project was writing her thesis.

“Asian American narratives aren’t really spotlighted or put in the center and because we see that lack of representation, sometimes we internalize it,” Jumapao said at a talk. “We’re trying to show them that their narratives matter.”

The Asian American History Project is not the only program educating UF students about Asian American history. The Asian American Studies certificate was introduced in 2004 and later became a minor in 2013.

Malini Johar Schueller, a professor for the department of English, has presided over the AAS minor as undergraduate coordinator since its introduction into the university curriculum.

“It’s a minor for everybody, Schueller said. “Asian American history is not taught enough.”

Outside the classroom, student leaders have played a role in UF’s Asian American history.

In 2011, Anthony Reynolds became the first Asian student body president.

“I was still kind of confused,” she said. UF helped Lopez learn more about her culture by meeting a wide variety of people of different cultures and different nationalities, she said.

For Laila Jamasi, her Afghan and Persian background has been a significant aspect of her involvement on campus. The 18-year-old UF nutritional sciences freshman is part of the pre-dental ASDA and Muslim Student Association.

Although Jamasi believes UF has made more efforts to expand the inclusion of AAPI, there’s always more to learn about, she said.

“I think there’s a lot of diversion, inclusion and equity overall.” Jamasi said.

Junior Kanna Isabel Agnila’s Filipino heritage has played a crucial role in her upbringing. Finding involvement that is inclusive of her heritage is important to her.

“Being involved in Asian American organizations on campus has given me a place to really connect with my cultural roots and find a home away from home,” the 20-year-old psychology student said.

Agnila has been involved in Filipino Student Association, FiND Program, Asian American Student Assembly and Kappa

In February, Joaquin Rafaele Marcelino founded the Pan-Asian Caucus after noticing common concerns amongst members of AAPID student organizations.

“They just are not comfortable nor do they see [student government] being on their side a lot of the time,” Marcelino said.

The Pan-Asian Caucus is dedicated to advocating for the “representation, advocacy and execution of the interests of the Asian, Pacific Islander, Desi and Middle Eastern Population at the University of Florida,” according to the student government website.

The caucus has proposed the establishment of an AAPID Institute at UF, similar to the Institute of Black Culture and La Casita.

“These [changes] will not come to be overnight, and thus I am committed to these initiatives as long as I hold office and am a student at UF,” Marcelino said.


Phi Lambda Sorority, an Asian interest sorority.

Agnila’s involvement has been able to help her grow as a student, embracing her ambitions, she said.

“I find myself motivated to be involved and seek leadership because the people and organizations around me encourage me to be myself and live life to the fullest,” Agnila said.

Kappa Phi Lambda is offered to all Asian nationalities and beyond, and there’s respect and acknowledgement for each individual background, she said.

Azward Ahmed, Bangladeshi Student Association external vice president, said his experiences in college have helped him grow closer to his culture.

“I think it’s done an amazing job,” Ahmed, 20, said. “Coming into college, I didn't feel as cultured as I do now and I really do feel like BSA has played an enormous part in that.”

Students have been able to immerse themselves in comfortable communities where they are free to express their identities.


1 AAPI, from pg.
Emma Hayakawa // Alligator Staff

UF professor spearheads Asian American studies minor

She’s taught at UF for more than 30 years

Malini Johar Schueller grew up in Chandigarh, India, a city north of New Delhi, the country’s capital. She came from a well-educated family who encouraged her to make a career out of literature.

“I was always fond of literature,” she said. “Pursuing it was an obvious choice.”

Before teaching at UF, she received her master’s degree in English from Panjab University, India, in 1979. Her research interests include U.S. empire studies, Asian American studies, postcolonial theory, critical race theory and postcolonial women of color.

Now at UF, she is a UF professor and the faculty adviser for Students for Justice in Palestine and Sparks Magazine, an Asian American student-run magazine.

Throughout her life, Schueller found different motivations that inspired her to learn, write and teach the importance of Asian American studies and other topics. Her motivations changed as she grew professionally, she said.

As the only professor who teaches Asian American studies at UF, she became the coordinator of the minor given her passion and more than 20 years of experience.

In 2015, Schueller produced “In His Own Home,” a documentary based on a 2010 shooting at UF where campus police broke into the apartment of Ghanaian doctoral student Kofi Adu-Brempong and shot him in the face.

The documentary won three separate awards, including Best Local Film at the Cinema Verde Film Festival in 2015.

Schueller’s troubles with the current legislative season fuels her yearn for political change, she said.

Her passion led her to publish a book in 2019, “Campaigns of Knowledge.” The book discusses America’s colonization of the Philippines and Japan through reeducation programs, which both nations resisted. The invasion of Iraq inspired her to write the book after she learned about the educational program the U.S implemented during the war.

She is currently working on her second book, titled “Solidarity Politics Through Critical Race Reading.”

Schueller voiced concerns about Asian Americans being used as political pawns after Gov. DeSantis signed House Bill 1537 requiring Asian American and Pacific Islander history in the K-12 curriculum.

“Asian Americans are being used and weaponized in a race war in America as potential model minorities just like they were in the ‘60s,” she said. “I just wonder whether it’s to draw [Asian Americans] into the Republican agenda.”

Schueller believes it’s bizarre and cynical that Gov. Desantis signed House Bill 1537 when he also defunded DEI initiatives, she said.

Schueller has taught at UF since 1986 and has never seen this level of interference in the curriculum that we are seeing now, she said. She believes students should

Reactions to state bill

DESANTIS, from pg. 1

the state.

The bills, which go into effect July 1, restrict property and land ownership for Chinese citizens in Florida, bar schools and government institutions from accessing Chinese applications and block donations from China to public universities.

The governor announced the bills’ signing at a Stop CCP Influence rally in Brooksville May 8, calling the Chinese Communist Party “the United States’ greatest geopolitical threat.”

“We are following through on our commitment to crack down on communist China,” Gov. DeSantis said.

The legislation does not exclusively target the Chinese government. Instead, the bills highlight a list of perceived countries of concern, which also includes Russia, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea and Cuba.

Members of the Gainesville community protested the bills in April, with some calling the legislation unconstitutional for fear the bills would fuel discrimination against Asian Americans if passed.

Senate Bill 264 prevents “for-

eign principals” from the specified countries of concern from purchasing agricultural land in the state of Florida. If violated, both the buyer and seller could receive a second-degree misdemeanor charge, according to the bill.

The bill also largely restricts Chinese citizens from buying property in Florida.

Critics of SB 264, like Yi, believe the bill's vague language on who is eligible to purchase real estate will lead to racial discrimination and profiling, which will create challenges for prospective Chinese homebuyers in Florida.

"I don't know what to tell my kids,” she said. “‘That you are born here, yet because you have a Chinese face, you still need to show documents.’”

Yi also worries the legislation will encourage Floridians to be suspicious of the Chinese residents living in their communities, who want nothing more than to raise their families and contribute to the U.S.’s development, she said.

“This bill certainly is sabotaging the American Dream for us,” she said.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson said that

organize protests and speak against hateful rhetoric.

“[Politicians] want a Disney version of American history,” Schueller said. “It’s really sad.”

When she’s not writing books, Schueller keeps in touch with former students and aids them with their future career endeavors.

Mya Guarnieri Jaradat, a UF alumna and Deseret Magazine journalist, took Schueller’s Asian American literature course focused on post-colonialism.

“She molded me into the journalist I would become,” she said. “I learned so much about being a woman from her class.”

The class offered different cultural frameworks with the right amount of guidance and space, she said.

“It got me thinking differently about oppression and system racism and how women are oppressed,” Jaradat said. “I grew so much intellectually.”

The discussions Schueller presented in the class allowed Jaradat to think differently about her own privileges and learn more about other people’s struggles in regard to their identity, she said.

The class also touched on machismo, the association of toxic, strong or aggressive masculine pride within Hispanic culture.

Jaradat has kept in touch with Schueller since she left UF and notes that while Schueller can be tough and blunt, it comes with love.

It will be a sad day when professor Schueller retires, she said.

Schueller proudly identifies as Asian

China’s control of agricultural land around the U.S. is “leaving our food supply and our national security interests at risk” in a news release.

However, Gainesville farmer Txong Moua doesn’t believe there is any truth to Simpson’s concerns. Moua owns Passions Field in Alachua and is a second-generation farmer of Hmong origins — a group indigenous to China but mostly residing in Vietnam.

Though her business wouldn’t be directly impacted by the bill, Moua called it ‘unsettling.’

“Several times I’ve considered not living in Florida because of these things,” Moua said. “But then another part of me wanted to just kind of fight for my rights as a person.”

If more people affected by the bills do not fight back, nothing will change, she added.

Outside of property, Senate Bill 258 codifies the bans that several of Florida’s universities, including UF, placed on TikTok and other Chinese apps in April. It prevents the use of apps from countries of concern on government or educational servers or devices.

The bill affects the online messenger service WeChat, which creates a hardship for people from China, Nuo Qi, a recent graduate of UF from China.

“This app is like iMessage to

American, and that identity has given her a sense of community, she said.

“I see an impact in that collectivity,” Schueller said. “We’ll always be seen as foreigners, but it’s nice to have commonalities.”


Chinese,” Qi said. “Without this app, we cannot [message] our friends and family.”

The governor also signed Senate Bill 846, which prevents Florida colleges and universities from accepting donations or entering partnerships with entities based or controlled by any of the countries of concern.

Gov. DeSantis said in an Instagram post the legislation intends to prevent China from influencing Florida’s education system.

Hongcheng Liu is a UF industrial and systems engineering assistant professor who moved to the U.S. from China in 2010.

Liu supports Florida protecting itself from harmful foreign influences, but said he’s concerned about the impacts SB 846 could have on international students and scholars in the state.

“This is going to at least contribute to a climate of unease within our academic institutions,” he said. “Especially the communities in these institutions that have an origin relative to the list of countries in this bill.”

The bill is unclear in its guidelines the Board of Governors and the State Board of Education must follow to approve a donation or agreement with a foreign country of concern. The ambiguity could result in discrepancies in the law's implementation, Liu said.

Liu compared the bill to the China Initiative, a 2018 U.S. Justice Department-led effort to combat economic espionage by attacking academics believed to be Chinese spies.

The program was highly criticized for using abusive tactics and making wrongful accusations, which led to its end in 2022.

“That previous initiative created an atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion around Chinese researchers, scholars, scientists and students,” he said. “That initiative resulted in a concerning level of governmental harassment of innocent citizens or residents.”

Banning donations from potentially relevant, important funding resources could slow research within universities and discourage international talent from wanting to work or study in Florida, he said.

“This bill is going to send a message that the entities from these nations are not welcome,” he said. “That could deter a new generation of potentially very bright international students and scholars from considering Florida universities.”



Courtesy to The Alligator Professor Malini Johar Schueller is the undergraduate coordinator of the Asian American studies minor and the faculty adviser for Sparks Magazine, an Asian American student-run magazine.

about time Representation Matters

When I started working at the Alligator in the summer of 1986, reporters were still typing their stories out on manual typewriters. The clicketyclack of those ancient machines always made it seem like we were in some black-and-white 1950s movie instead of on the verge of the digital age.

It was a time when there was very little emphasis — or even awareness — of the importance of diversity in our newsroom. During my days at the Alligator, I was the only staffer of Asian descent that I can recall. When I was appointed to the role of managing editor in 1987, I never wondered whether I was the first Asian American to rise to one of the top two positions in the newsroom. While I think I might have been, I don’t know for sure.

I do know there were some who came after me. Today, I’m thrilled to know the Alligator’s Editor-In-Chief, Jiselle Lee, and Digital Managing Editor, Jackson Reyes, are both Asian American.

As someone who had never had many Asian Americans in my schools growing up, the situation in the 1980s seemed pretty normal. I’m sure if I had grown up in California or a major urban area, instead of South Florida, I would have had a greater awareness of the contributions Asians had made to American culture.

There was no Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month back then. President Obama wouldn’t sign the proclamation making May AAPI Heritage Month for another 25 years.

The lack of diversity in the news industry really wouldn’t hit me for a few more years. I was a reporter at the Palm Beach Post in the 1990s when I first started to wonder why there were so few Asian American journalists in the Florida market. I could count the ones in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach market on both of my hands and still have a few fingers left over.

That feeling of isolation was one reason a handful of other Asian Americans and I founded the Florida Chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association in 1995.

Our chapter provided a network for Asian Americans in the news business, but we also monitored and responded to unfair portrayals of Asians in the state’s newspapers and broadcast news. Most importantly, we pushed our newsrooms to examine their hiring practices.

Having a newsroom with reporters and editors from different backgrounds and cultures is important to being able to cover the communities they live in.

Sometimes, it’s as simple as having someone on staff who can see past cultural blindspots, flagging hurtful points of view or phrases someone else wasn’t even aware of. It’s also critical in building trust in the community.

For example, the Orlando Sentinel in the 1990s found that it had very few Spanish-speaking reporters on staff to cover the burgeoning Puerto Rican community in Central Florida. After the community protested, the Sentinel made a major push to hire bilingual journalists.

Representation matters. Having two top editors of Asian descent for the first time in the Alligator’s 117-year history matters. Their voices, their perspectives and life experiences matter – not only for their newsroom but for the UF community.

The Alligator has come a long way since those days of manual typewriters, when we literally cut and paste new paragraphs into our stories. Having a newsroom as diverse as the one we see at today’s Alligator also reflects how much the times have changed. And yet, in a state where the governor and legislature have outlawed the very idea of promoting diversity, having that representation at the Independent Florida Alligator matters more than ever.

Joe Newman is a photographer and writer living in Washington, D.C. He spent many years as a reporter and editor at Florida newspapers but has worked in nonprofit communications in D.C. since 2007. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Florida’s J-School, teaching a course on public interest communications.

This is The Alligator’s first edition dedicated to Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Since former President Barack Obama recognized May to be AAPI month in 2009, the AAPI community has made numerous landmarks across the nation. Most notably, AAPI were named the fastestgrowing demographic in the country, growing 81% from 2000 to 2019, from roughly 10.5 million to a record 18.9 million, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau population estimates.

Despite the enormous efforts the community has made to establish its presence, The Alligator has lacked consistent coverage of AAPI people in the Gainesville community. Admittedly, this is the result of an inconsistent amount of AAPI reporters on our staff from semester to semester.

I’ve been on The Alligator for six semesters. I’m Chinese American, and I have been one of the few AAPI staffers for most semesters since 2021.

Covering AAPI issues has been so rewarding and emotional for me. I wrote about local reactions to hate crimes against Asian Americans and the Atlanta

spa shootings.

In this paper, we’re highlighting the impact that the AAPI community has had on UF’s campus and in the Gainesville community.

We wrote a story on how one of the first Asian American students enrolled at the university as early as 1915. We also wrote a story about the more than 15 Asian businesses located at the intersection of Southwest 34th Street and Archer Road.

Influential Asian Americans come from Gainesville, too.

Popular Asian food chain Bento Asian Kitchen & Sushi recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, and the franchise has made its way throughout the state. Bento’s founders Johnny Tung and Jimmy Tung opened their

We want a seat at the table

As an Asian American with a white mother and a Filipino father, I have always struggled with my identity.

At first glance, most people I’ve met don’t realize I’m an Asian American, which led to my desire to embrace my Filipino identity. It pushed me to learn more about that side of my heritage.

It was something I was proud to represent in my accomplishments, such as graduating high school and attending UF.

However, I always questioned my place in things. I always grew up around predominantly white people, which made it harder for me to lean on Asian American role models. In

Pensacola where I grew up, I am part of just 1.76% of the Asian population in the city, according to the World Population Review.

I always wondered if my voice as an Asian American was being underutilized.

I learned to embrace my individuality and adjusted as I grew older, but I was met with another identity crisis when I began my journalism career at UF.

I felt like the black sheep of the Asian side of my family.

I’ve always felt like I have needed to live up to a certain expectation, like studying a major that would provide more secure jobs.

There have been countless times when I’ve felt silly explaining how my

job is writing about sports and that my pay could always be better when everyone else in my family has their futures secured.

The underrepresentation in sports journalism doesn’t help that either.

English-speaking Asian American journalists make up about just 1% of the U.S. journalists who cover sports beats, according to a 2022 Pew Research Center survey.

It’s easy for me to look at incredible sports journalists like ESPN’s Mina Kimes or Meadowlark Media’s Pablo Torre and see two great role models and aspire to be like them. But when I look around the rest of the country, it can be disheartening at first.

This only pushes

first location on Newberry Road.

In this edition, we wrote about Malini Johar Schueller, who is the only UF professor who teaches Asian American studies. We also wrote about Nathaniel Chan, who is responsible for designing the current and future city plan for Gainesville. While we are so proud of the coverage we did, we hope this is just the beginning of doing this community justice.

me to work harder. There should be more Asian Americans in journalism and sports journalism alike. Diverse voices bring the best coverage, and that cannot happen until more members of the AAPI community are in positions to tell stories people want to hear.

With each semester I spend at The Alligator, I see more and more Asian American journalists join the staff. Our editor-in-chief, Jiselle Lee, and I are making history as the first two Asian American managing editors to be a part of staff in the same semester, to my knowledge.

Seeing this in a student newsroom in the cramped corner of the Gainesville Sun makes me optimistic about the fu-

ture of AAPI voices in journalism and in newsrooms across the U.S.

My hope is that a small percentage of Asian Americans in sports journalism grows every year. I hope to be a part of that percentage. And as it grows, I hope I feel just a little less silly telling the Asian side of my family what I do for work and that a job that is important and not easy gets the recognition it deserves in the AAPI community.

Jackson Reyes is the Digital Managing Editor of the Independent Florida Alligator.

MONDAY, MAY 22, 2023
Jiselle Lee is the EditorIn-Chief of The Independent Florida Alligator.
Column Column Column The Alligator encourages comments from readers. Letters to the editor should not exceed 600 words (about one letter-sized page). They must be typed, double-spaced and must include the author’s name, classification and phone number. Names will be withheld if the writer shows just cause. We reserve the right to edit for length, grammar, style and libel. Send letters to, bring them to 2700 SW 13th St., or send them to P.O. Box 14257, Gainesville, FL 32604-2257.Columns of about 450 words about original topics and editorial cartoons are also welcome. Questions? Call 352-376-4458. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of The Alligator.
Jiselle Lee Jackson Reyes Joe Newman

Asian supermarkets, restaurants make up ‘Gainesville’s Chinatown’

Corner of Southwest 34th Street and Archer Road home to more than 15 Asian businesses

The sound of people speaking Chinese, Japanese or Tagalog layer over K-pop harmonies. The smell of Indian spices floats in from next door. It’s the sight, sound and smell of home.

Located on the corner of Southwest 34th Street and Archer Road and nicknamed “Gainesville’s Chinatown” by some for its high concentration of Asian restaurants, there are more than 15 Asian businesses within a mile of each other.

Isis Dwyer, a 27-year-old fourthyear UF anthropology doctoral student, considers Teastori, a boba store on Southwest 34th Street, one of her third places, a place outside of home or work.

Whenever Dwyer and her classmates want to escape the windowless lab in the basement of Turlington, they’ll meet up at Teastori where she usually orders a strawberry mojito, she said.

Dwyer was happily surprised to see other cultures represented in the city. She has Jamaican heritage, and when she first moved to Gainesville she expected to be surrounded by

white people all of the time, she said.

“Seeing little pockets of people of color making food that I enjoy has been awesome,” Dwyer said.

Back home in New Jersey, she would buy chicken and broccoli or General Tso’s chicken from the nearest Chinese restaurant when she had a bad day. Now, she continues the tradition in Gainesville.

“If it’s providing that sort of comfort and home for me, I can only imagine what that’s doing for people who actually identify with these ethnicities,” she said.

However, after she’s seen New York City’s Chinatown, she believes calling it “Gainesville’s Chinatown” is an oversimplification. She sees the area more as an “eclectic mix of Asian ethnicities.”

In addition to Chinese restaurants, there are South Asian businesses like Indian Street Food and Vietnamese restaurants like Pho Ha Noi. Some places combine different cuisines, like Sweet Buns bakery and Enson Market.

From fresh fish to bags of basmati rice, Enson Market is stocked with rare-to-find ingredients and snacks popular in Asia.

Gainesville resident Megan Maka-

hiya shops at Enson Market to buy ingredients for pancit, a Filipino noodle dish. Makahiya, 36, is Filipino, and she makes traditional food for her two children, Rami and Asad.

Knowing she has a place to buy noodles for pancit or wrappers for lumpia is reassuring, she said.

“I feel like we’re being seen,” Makahiya said.

Like Dwyer, Makahiya found herself comparing Gainesville to a bigger city she’s lived in before. She figured, as a college town, it wouldn’t have many diverse stores or restaurants.

She gives props to Gainesville for having so many Asian-owned and Asian-centered shopping in one niche area, she said.

She believes having so many different Asian places to shop and eat so close together gives people the opportunity to become familiar with new cultures they may be curious about.

“It’s just bringing more insight to other people’s culture instead of ‘vanilla,’” she said.

Enson Market meets her needs, and the diverse surrounding businesses mean her family gets to experience other cultures as well.

Some of the restaurants combine cuisines from several Asian countries like Zen Noodle Bar, which sells popular dishes from different cultures like pad thai, Korean kimchi fried rice or Vietnamese pho.

Miranda Stark, the 26-year-old general manager of Zen Noodle Bar, thinks having a wide selection and a variety of restaurants in the area means there is something for everyone, she said.

From a business standpoint, having so many Asian restaurants close together builds a close community, and the area is easily recognizable, she said.

“I think it’s similar to how every time you see a CVS, you see a Walgreens,” Stark said. “I think people know this as a spot to come and get good Asian food.”

She visits other near-by restaurants and stores during her free time including Kung Fu Tea, another one of the six boba places in the area.

Another one of those places is

Frosty Fox, a boba franchise that started in Gainesville. The Southwest 34th Street location is owned by 48-year-old Po-Fung Chen. When meeting customers, he introduces himself by his American name, Brad.

Chen came to America so his children would receive a better education and started the franchise to support his family, he said.

Sam Fessahaye, an 18-year-old Buchholz High School senior, has worked for Frosty Fox since February 2022.

Chen treats staff and customers like family as well, Fessahaye said.

Though he works at a boba store, he is not a big boba guy, but he does enjoy Asian restaurants, he said.

He lived in Gainesville his whole life but only discovered “Gainesville’s Chinatown” when he started working at Frosty Fox.

From a cultural point of view, he thinks the area helps people connect with others from similar backgrounds.

“Coming to a restaurant, or even the grocery store, you can meet people who may be from the same place as you and they speak the same language,” Fessahaye said.

For some, it’s also a place to share their culture. Ashly Almendrala, a 19-year-old UF microbiology sophomore, was born in the Philippines

and moved to Florida when he was six.

Being in a less homogeneous society with a lot of diversity has been a wonderful experience, he said. Now, he works at Tiger Sugar, another boba store located inside Enson Market.

His official job title is bobarista.

Mostly, he loves to share his favorite food with friends and customers.

“I’m that kind of person that doesn’t like to gatekeep culture,” he said. “I’d love for other people to discover what this area is.”

It’s also satisfying to have so many different Asian cuisines represented, he said.

“Asian people are just not your typical East Asian, like Chinese, Korean, Japanese,” Almendrala said. “There’s more culture to that.”

So from the various Asian businesses, maybe calling this corner of the city “Gainesville’s Chinatown” may not be an accurate representation of everything there.

But as people gather around tables to drink and eat and cook fare from their heritage, it may not be home, but it surely reminds people of it.


Keep up with the Avenue on Twitter. Tweet us @TheFloridaAve. MONDAY, MAY 22, 2023 Swim and Dive Maha Amer finds her support system in Gainesville. Read more on pg. 11. Scan to follow the Avenue on Spotify
Marcus Rojas // Alligator Staff Ashly Almendrala, a bobarista, rearranges the pastry box at Tiger Sugar on Friday, May 19, 2023. Isabelle Ferrie // Alligator Staff

UF artist finds a home in Gainesville’s local markets and school club

moving to Gainesville,

Johnny Nguyen found he enjoyed the comfort of a pencil in his hand from an early age while growing up in Urbana, Illinois. Tracing the covers of GameCube games, like Spiderman 2 and old Disney movies, onto sheets of copy paper led him to create his own sketches.

Now a recent graduate from UF in business management and economics, the 21-year-old artist still loves to work with his hands. Most of his paintings were studies of different artists, but lately, he’s been inspired by Franklin Booth’s illustrations and Studio Ghibli films because of the attention to detail and whimsical nature.

“I’ve always liked having story elements to the things I create,” Nguyen said.

When Nguyen moved to Cape Coral, Florida, in 2010, he found a plethora of art classes at his school, something he hadn’t seen from his low-income school in Urbana.

“When I moved down to Florida, I took every art class I could in middle school,

and I took every art class in high school,” Nguyen said. “I took drawing classes, I took painting classes because I loved it.”

He also joined art organizations like the National Art Honor Society.

Nguyen’s longtime friend turned college roommate, Brian Gurges, has known him since high school. Gurges described their friendship as two peas in a pod.

During their senior year of high school, Nguyen collaborated with other friends of Gurges to recreate a painting of the Last Supper as a birthday present for Gurges’ 18th birthday.

Since coming to UF, the pair have only grown closer and will continue living together in Gainesville for the next year.

“I think both of us were a lot more introverted, especially him and I’ve seen him coming into his own and selling his art and it’s some stuff he’s super proud of,” Gurges said. “He’s really making an impact in the community, and it’s so exciting to see him do that. I’m super proud of him.”

After seeing friends become burnt out from art school, Nguyen decided to major in computer science with a business minor

experienced an independent art market

when he started at UF in 2019. Eventually, he decided to pursue a dual degree in business management and economics, and he hoped to find a place in the business world where he is still creating art.

Gainesville was unlike any place Nguyen had lived before. The areas of Urbana and Cape Coral he lived in were small towns where not much happened, he said. Gainesville offered something new for him with independent art markets like Flashbacks Recycled Fashions or the How Bazar, he said.

He found a home in the Gainesville art scene by attending markets from these local venues.

“It’s something I really wanted to be part of and be involved in,” Nguyen said. ”It just gives me motivation outside of school and work to make more art, meet more people that are interested in art, and surround myself with people like me.”

One of Nguyen’s favorite things about art during high school was collaborating with other artists through classes and art organizations. Because he wasn’t an art major, there weren’t a lot of opportunities

for him to come together with other artists to create together, he said.

He created The Artists, a UF student organization for students of all majors to come together to create art in all mediums during his sophomore year. To promote the club, he created flyers, and he posted them throughout campus and on social media. About 70 people attended the first meeting, and the club has continued to grow since then, he said.

One of the attendees from the first meeting of The Artists was psychology behavioral analysis major, Alyssa Leong.

Leong saw Nguyen’s flyers everywhere on campus, she said.

Leong feels that she and Nguyen have both grown as creators and friends since they first met. Nguyen helped her learn how best to print her art to sell, she said.

“It’s always nice seeing how both of our small businesses grow with each market,” Leong said. “He is truly inspiring with his go-getter attitude and amazing artwork.” @graceydavis_

Courtesy to The Alligator Johnny Nguyen, an artist, is seen at The How Bazar’s Art Walk at First Magnitude Brewing Company on Friday, Feb. 24, 2023.
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Maha Amer finds second home in Gainesville


If you ask Maha Amer what brought her to Florida, she would say the Gators’ confidence and pride.

If you ask Amer why she stayed, she would say her support system.

She is a two-time All-American, the 2022 Southeastern Conference Co-Female Diver of the Year and a 2022 College Swimming and Diving Association of America Scholar All-American from Cairo, Egypt, who was a member of the UF women’s diving team from 2021 to 2023.

Amer’s diving career began when she was 7 years old in a gymnastics club in Egypt when her club coach noticed her talent and brought her into diving to launch a now seventeen-year career.

“My coach basically recruited me, told me I’d be good in diving,” Amer said. “We ended up sticking with it.”


Amina Khairy, Amer’s mother, felt Amer belonged to the sport because it challenged her.

“I think for Maha it was a bit unique, [Amer and diving] chose each other,” Khairy said. “It’s the challenge, the confidence, the strength, the art, the body. It’s everything.”

Amer qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil when she was 16 years old. She finished 28th out of 30 in the women’s 3-meter springboard competition as the youngest diver in the field.

Amer met the first coach who recruited her to come to the United States in Bolsano, Italy, after the 2016 Olympics.

“For all of us, her going to the Olympics at the Rio de Janeiro made a really big shift,” Khairy said. “Wow, Maha is going to be something big in diving.”

Two years later, at 18 years old, Amer moved to the United States to start her bachelor’s degree in public health and economics at the University of Arkansas.

“My first semester was extremely tough,” the diver said. “Just everything about it. I almost didn’t come back after I went home for

Christmas break.”

The transition of moving across the world was harsh on Amer.

“I’m really close with my mom, dad and brother,” Amer said. “So leaving them behind was the biggest challenge.”

The new curriculum, the new environment and the new world she was thrown into took a toll on her mental health, but her parents guided her through this struggle.

“At the beginning, she got a bit nostalgic, leaving her friends and her parents,” Khairy said. “It was good for her because this was a new challenge.”

Amer found her rhythm in her second semester. The scholar took 17 credit hours and ended with a 4.0 GPA.

“I think I would owe me coming back to my parents,” she said. “They’re the only people who really believed in me and supported me.”

She continued to compete at the University of Arkansas for a total of three years after she redshirted for the 2019-2020 season.

While at Arkansas, Florida’s head diving coach Bryan Gillooly, saw her and was immediately impressed.

“I remember even when she wasn't on Florida's team, taking videos of her diving, to show to my divers,” Gillooly said. “She was doing a lot of the things that were just so high-level and a lot of the techniques that I was trying to teach.”

In her last two years of eligibility, Amer decided to transfer with her heart set on being a Gator.

“I had told my parents that if Bryan reaches out to me and recruits me, I’m dropping all other


Gators secure SEC title in regular-season finale against Kentucky


The Florida Gators sat outside Kentucky Proud Park nervously surrounding a horizontal iPad screen that depicted the final inning of the Arkansas-Vanderbilt game.

Florida defeated the Kentucky Wildcats earlier that day and needed a loss from the Arkansas Razorbacks in order to become the Southeastern Conference regular-season cochampions. Vanderbilt led 7-6 in the final frame and forced a ground ball double play for the last pair of outs.

The entire UF team erupted. Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan high-stepped in joy, players banged poles and teammates jumped on one another in celebration of Florida’s 16th SEC championship.

The Gators were on the outside looking in for the Southeastern Conference regular-season crown before their series against the Vanderbilt Commodores May 12.

Florida was two games back of first place in the SEC East and two games back of the Razorbacks for the league title.

UF swept its series against the Commodores for first place in the SEC East and positioned itself to have a chance at the SEC regular season title in its final regular season series against the Kentucky Wildcats.

The No. 4 Gators (42-13, 20-10 SEC) defeated the No. 19 Wildcats (36-17, 16-14 SEC) 5-2 May 20 to secure the series at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky.

Florida defeated the Wildcats 10-3 in game one May 18 but lost the second game of the series after they struck out 14 times against Kentucky’s pitching staff. Despite the loss, the Gators still had a chance at the regular-season hardware in the series finale.

Florida needed to earn one more victory and looked toward two-way sophomore Jac Caglianone to get the job done.

Caglianone — who has been an offensive juggernaut for UF all season — struggled on the mound this season when playing away from Condron Family Ballpark. Caglianone dealt with command issues in each of his four road starts, with 23 walks in 11 innings for an 8.18 earned run average.

The series finale against Kentucky was different. Caglianone tossed seven scoreless innings in a back-and-forth pitching duel which lasted until the seventh frame. The Gators overcame their offensive woes and scored four

runs in the inning.

Caglianone was the first to break onto the scoreboard when he scored from third off a sacrifice-fly by senior catcher BT Riopelle.

Florida tacked on three more runs through the seventh off an up-the-middle single from freshman infielder Luke Heyman and a tworun blast from junior infielder Dale Thomas — who hit his first career knock as a Gator. Kentucky sophomore relief pitcher Evan Byers threw an offspeed pitch that leaked over the plate just enough for the Coastal Carolina transfer to send the ball over the right field wall.

The Wildcats attempted to chip away at UF’s lead and scored two runs in the eighth and ninth innings. The scores weren’t enough to overcome the four-run deficit.

The Gators succeeded in what they could control in pursuit of the regular-season SEC crown. Despite the win, UF needed losses from Arkansas and the Louisiana State Tigers in order to hoist the title of SEC regular season champs.

After a lopsided defeat of the Tigers, the Gators needed just a loss from the Razorbacks. Arkansas led 6-4 in the sixth inning of the rubber match against the Commodores, and after going scoreless for two innings, Vanderbilt’s offense arose from the dead. Razorbacks

freshman left-hander Parker Coil was substituted into the game in relief of junior right-handed starter Will McEntire to start the inning.

The sophomore struck out his first batter but allowed hits to the next two hitters he faced. Coil then committed a balk that triggered a burst of runs. The Commodores scored three runs in the sixth inning and took a 7-6 lead.

In the top of the ninth inning, Vanderbilt still preserved its one-run lead that suddenly looked at risk.

Razorbacks freshman outfielder Mason Neville straddled the first base bag after being placed in the game to pinch-run for junior infielder Caleb Cali. With a 1-1 count, Arkansas senior infielder Brady Slavens swatted a chopping ground ball to second base that was tossed to second for the force out and fired to first to complete the double play.

The Florida players that sat outside Kentucky Proud Park began to erupt. The Gators were named Co-SEC champions.

The Gators are the No. 1 seed in the upcoming SEC Championship tournament. The title-run begins May 23 and Florida’s first game is May 24 against the winner of the Alabama Crimson Tide and Kentucky contest.


MONDAY, MAY 22, 2023 Follow us for updates For updates on UF athletics, follow us on Twitter at @alligatorSports or online at Follow our newsletter Love alligatorSports? Stay up to date on our content by following our newsletter. Scan the QR Code to sign up. alligatorSports has a podcast! The alligatorSports Podcast releases episodes every Wednesday and can be streamed on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or your other preferred streaming platform.
Ryan Friedenberg // Alligator Staff Florida graduate diver Maha Amer poses during the Gators’ senior day ceremony Friday, January 13, 2023.

Amer finds Florida Family

Florida dream comes true

DIVE, from pg. 11

SOFTBALL, from pg. 11

expressed. “This, of course, reflected on her meets this season.”

el, so he had an impact on my growth as a person and an athlete," Reagan Walsh said.

offers,” Amer said. “I will commit to the University of Florida.”

Her fellow Gators have noticed her confidence in her ability to change positions on the field when things get tough.

Amer said. “He said ‘it can only go up from there,’ and the mindset I went into the competition the next day was completely different.”


Walsh was set to fill the hole left by the departure of former Florida graduate student infielder Hannah Adams as she entered her sophomore season.

points and placed 25th in the 3-meter springboard. Amer felt the team culture was so encouraging on her bad days, it often pushed her to do better.

be hard on her so she will succeed, he said.

ficult diving days.

Two hours before Amer made her decision, Gillooly reached out.

Her growth as an athlete and as a Gator was made possible by the support of her parents and teammates, she said.

“I scraped up everything I could scholarship-wise and gave her a call and we went from there,” Gillooly explained.

Walsh — who’s near the end of her second year — recognized she has support from her father, teammates and coaches, she said.

Khaled Amer, her father, found Gainesville a better fit for her because she felt more relaxed and at home as a Gator.

During the 2022-2023 regular season, the Cairo native set a school record in the 1-meter springboard with a score of 350.55 points against the Tennessee Volunteers. On her senior day, she won both the 1-meter and 3-meter against the Florida Atlantic Owls.

"I've seen her work and the growth she has had,” UF shortstop Skylar Wallace said. “I think she's known you're not going to be perfect at all times."

On day one of the SEC Conference championships, Amer fell from the diving board to finish in 13th place in the women’s 3-meter preliminary dive.

"The people at the University of Florida are great and have definitely impacted me as a player, but also as a person," Walsh said.

“Maybe it's the atmosphere, the support…she felt more mature, more happy to practice,” Khaled

“I was a little bit down, but that night Brian talked to me a lot,”

The following day Amer broke her three-year streak of placing fourth and brought home a silver medal in the 1-meter springboard for a tallied score of 337.85 points.

Walsh has displayed confidence and an eagerness to win to the fans who come out to support her in Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. She batted in a season-high six runs against Illinois State Feb. 11 and has a batting average of 0.353 this season. Her control at bat and ability to find the right pitch is big in late innings, Wallace

“This medal meant a lot to me because I was surrounded by the people I love, the people who have helped me, the people who have seen me at my lowest, the people who have supported me the most,” she said.

“Working with Coach Walton every single day at practice, and him killing me at second base, I think, is all worth it,” Walsh said. “Hannah was such a great athlete; it's an awesome experience to be able to play second.”

“I think it always takes a whole village to help navigate being a student and an athlete,” Amer said.

In the National Collegiate Athletic Association Championships, Amer placed 12th in the 1-meter springboard with a score of 304.85

Walsh and her father share a passion for sports and the competitiveness that comes with it. However, a line is drawn between his support for her as a father and giving her advice as a former athlete who understands the hardships of being an athlete, John Walsh said. He has to push her and

"As a parent, I just want to love and support her — tell her it's all right,” he said. “Then on the other hand, you have to be competitive, and you have to push her to make sure she knows you have to do better, and you can do this.”

Carina Lumia, a junior on the Florida women’s diving team and close friend of Amer, agreed with the graduate diver.

“I know they’re proud of me no matter what happens,” Lumia said. “When you’re having a bad day, it’s nice to know my girls always have my back.”

“I know she is a person I can go to for anything. She always has an answer,” Lumia said. “She’s just someone anyone would want as a friend.”

Amer’s parents expressed multitudes of gratitude for the support system the Florida diving community provided to their daughter.

He will forever support his daughter, he said. As a former athlete playing at a competitive level, he’s been hard on Reagan and understands the tough times she might face, he said.

"It's a tough balance,” he said. “But I love her and let her know that.”

Lumia brought up Amer as a person she always felt she could turn to, especially on her more dif-

“If I have a chance to send a thanks and appreciation to her coach, colleagues, her professors and all the people in the athletic department at the university,” Khaled said. “This sort of appreciation, I feel it so genuinely.”