Volunteer Profile: Getting to Know Asian, Pacific Islander, & Desi Alumni Network Leader Jerome Viloria (GPH ’19) [he/him/his]
May 21, 2021
“I want to engage my fellow APID folks, amplify their voices, and take up space with them to advocate for our needs as a population. This presents an opportunity for me to learn more about our seat at the table of higher education and beyond,” says Jerome Viloria (GPH ’19).
Jerome is one of the leaders of the Asian, Pacific Islander & Desi Alumni (APIDA) Network and a public health professional at a time when both Asian Americans and healthcare workers are bearing heavy burdens. Jerome and five fellow alumni, including a few of his classmates from the College of Global Public Health, are leading the group with renewed energy this year.
The Asian, Pacific Islander & Desi Alumni Network was created in 2016 as part of an expansion of the NYU Multicultural Alumni Network. Its launch represented a renewed commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at NYU as a university priority under NYU President Andrew Hamilton.
With support from the NYU Alumni Association (NYUAA), the Network connects APID alumni with NYU and each other through social, cultural, educational, and community service events and programs. The APIDA Network also works in conjunction with the NYU Office of Global Inclusion to advance University-wide DEI initiatives.
Jerome graduated from the College of Mount Saint Vincent with a major in Biology and a minor in Philippine Studies. He earned his master's in public health at NYU's College of Global Public Health with a concentration in community health sciences and practice. Jerome currently works as the Project Connect Coordinator at Apicha Community Health Center, where he’s able to put passion to practice to empower people to become more proactive in their well-being; promote physical fitness, sexual health, and balanced nutrition to all communities; and provide a safe space and supportive community for APID and LGBTQ+ youth to discuss and affirm their identities.
What inspired you to become involved as an alumni volunteer with NYU?
Giving back to the community is a value that’s been instilled in me since I was a child, and I’ve always looked to alumni for guidance. Now that I have graduated, I want to provide the same guidance and support I received during my life as an undergraduate and graduate student.
What is the mission of the APIDA Network?
Our mission is to serve the needs and interest of Asian/Pacific Islander/Desi alumni and students by sponsoring events that connect our community and support professional development.
How has that mission changed or been reframed in light of the events of 2020 and 2021 and the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes?
With the onslaught of a global public health crisis and the anti-Asian sentiment incited by the previous U.S. administration, we have reframed our work to not only focus on socialization and professional development, but to also prioritize the mental and emotional well-being of our community. We aspire to foster a tight-knit family of APID alumni and students to create collective resource sharing and support networks as a means of reducing social isolation and other negative health outcomes.
How has the current climate impacted your role as a leader in the NYU alumni community and specifically in your efforts to build community for Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi alumni?
From the University side, the current socio-political climate enabled me to realize that proper representation of our community is absolutely necessary for change to occur. I want to engage my fellow APID folks, amplify their voices, and take up space with them to advocate for our needs as a population. This presents an opportunity for me to learn more about our seat at the table of higher education and beyond.
In my economic work at Apicha Community Health Center, these are the same messages I convey to the LGBTQ+ APIDA youth I work with in their leadership training, mentorship program, and advisory board. I strongly encourage these folks to get up and get loud, giving our oppressors a rude awakening that shatters their preconceived image of us as a subservient, complacent people. I encourage students in my LGBTQ+ Cultural Sensitivity Trainings to challenge and disrupt discriminatory beliefs and practices in their respective spaces, especially as aspiring health providers to ensure their queer patients receive the utmost respect.
This is one of the ways I build community—I supply knowledge and tools to nurture an affirming environment.
What are some of the most memorable moments from your involvement with the club?
We have recently rekindled over the past several months, but I would say one of the most memorable moments would be our first General Interest Meeting. Seeing new faces and hearing people’s stories gave me hope. This is our chance to pull people together, especially during a crisis.
Did you have any NYU classes or instructors who inspired or impacted you?
Oh wow! There are a number of folks who have inspired me at NYU.
First and foremost, I’d like to thank Dr. Joyce Moon-Howard, whom I like to think of as a nurturing grandmother figure in my life. She’s seen me at my best and worst during my MPH program. During the last few weeks of my final semester, Dr. Moon-Howard said that she sees me as a systems thinker, someone who can understand the particulate matter, but also visualise the larger picture. She also encouraged me to pursue my Doctor of Public Health degree; I never thought I was good enough to pursue something beyond a Master’s degree, especially after a brief tryst in my undergraduate career. (I was in a BA-PharmD joint program but changed gears.)
Secondly, I’d like to give a shout-out to Dr. Farzana Kapadia, my epidemiology professor and the co-director of the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior, and Prevention Studies (CHIBPS) at NYU. She welcomed me into her research center (and her London J-Term class!), which further solidified my mission in destigmatising sexual health in marginalised communities, and increasing access to comprehensive services. In one year, I was immersed in community-based participatory research, learning more about general population attitudes towards the HPV vaccine, the syndemic production among individuals who are at high risk for HIV infection, and the interplay between sexual and mental health. Because of this experience, I got my foot in the door at my current organization, Apicha Community Health Center.
In terms of coursework, my favorite classes were Program Planning and Evaluation, Community-Based Health Interventions, HIV/AIDS Health Promotion in the UK, Perspectives in Migrant Health, and Assessing Community Health Needs and Resources. These classes endowed me with the foundation I needed for my current economic work at Apicha. I stepped into my coordinator role well-equipped to outreach and build community relationships; develop, implement, and monitor programs; and develop needs assessment tools to continuously educate myself on the community’s temperature, with special regard to sexual and mental health. It’s almost as if everything conveniently fell into place.
What is your favorite:
- Food? Oh no, please don’t make me choose! Since I work in Chinatown, I’m always surrounded by food. I have to say I’ve been a huge fan of noodle dishes lately, particularly the Drunken Noodle Lunch Special from AppeTHAIze over on 75 Baxter Street. I also recommend their Thai iced tea or pink milk drink to hit the sweet spot.
- Book? One of the most gripping works I’ve read is Lola’s House: Filipino Women Living With War by M. Evelina Galang. It takes you through firsthand accounts of Filipino “comfort women,” giving a truly realistic experience of Japanese war crimes in the Philippines. I’ve never cried because of a book, but this made me lose it. Shout-out to my fellow committee leader, Felicity Duran (GPH ’19), for this recommendation.
- TV Show and/or Movie? I am a huge fan of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power because it’s a light-hearted, animated series that incorporates themes of queerness, societal oppression, and environmental justice without getting too deep into theory and complex jargon. It gives me Final Fantasy vibes, which feeds all my nerdiness. This is one of the few series I could watch over and over again. As an added challenge, I switched up the language for each season (there are five): Cantonese, Korean, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese, and Bahasa Indonesia. My favorite movie is yet another tough question, but I would say one of my favorite films is Wish You, a Korean BL (Boy’s Love) production that explores the budding relationship between two musicians. I’m a sucker for this film because of the soundtrack, and because it’s reminiscent of my own life.
- Song and/or Musical Artist? The song would be “Bussin’ 2.0” by Tay Money, featuring Saweetie (she’s Filipina!). This song gets me amped up in the morning and is super fun to improvise to as a dancer. My favorite musical artist is Justin L. Gonzales, an up-and-coming DJ and aspiring music educator from California. (And an absolute cutie!) You can catch his streams at live.malkalen.com. I’m also a huge fan of KPOP group TWICE; their music is perfect for home workouts!
- Podcast? I don’t listen to many podcasts, surprisingly! The closest I get to a podcast is watching any YouTube video that involves Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova. If it counts, I was in a podcast! The name of the series is “Queer Stories Untold,” which is available on Spotify! Outside those, I need recommendations, so by all means, please send them to me.
- Social distancing activity? I love my weekly Zoom workouts with my girls Felicity Duran and Mandy Lin (GPH ’19). We rotate between HIIT, pilates, and cardio videos on YouTube. Each week, one of us will select the videos for the trio to follow. We normally use videos created by Blogilates, MadFit, and Sunny Funny Fitness. Shout-out to Mandy for getting us hooked on Blogilates!