Hasan Minhaj kicks off Fall Welcome Week with Q&A

The comedian discussed the impact of the pandemic and civic engagement with students

Comedian Hasan Minhaj, this year's Fall Welcome speaker, kicked off the Fall Welcome Week on Monday with advice to students and a Q&A on the social and political climate.

Students from ASU's Civic Engagement Coalition asked Minhaj questions on current topics such as the model minority myth, the Black Lives Matter movement, the long-term impact of the pandemic, free speech and civic engagement. 

"I want you guys to know that the things that we do say and the things that we do stand for, they actually do get to the people we’re trying to reach," Minhaj said. "And that is a really meaningful, powerful thing." 

Minhaj is the producer and host of Netflix's "Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj," which is a series of 20-minute long episodes highlighting various issues, such as a breakdown on taxes and what happens when you can't pay rent.

The event also served as the launch of the Sun Devils Vote campaign, which aims to help students register to vote.

The comedian also listed the five things he wished someone told him when he was in college, one being that Sriracha sauce on bread does not count as "real food," and his research on the three coolest places on the Tempe campus.

Whereas welcome events in years past have focused on meeting new people through in-person activities, attendees said Minhaj’s livestreamed speech took a more thought-provoking approach.

Civic Engagement Chair for Changemaker Central Ayesha Ahsan, a senior studying sociology and economics, said the main purpose of having a big-name speaker tied with the campaign was to emphasize that students have a voice and they should be heard.  

“ASU is such a vital part of our community in Phoenix,” Ahsan said. “When it comes to engaging students, we make sure that students are registered to vote, mobilizing them, educating them. We are trying to do as much virtually.” 

Ahsan said Minhaj’s identity as a person of color and a first-generation American were also important factors when selecting him as a speaker. 

“We wanted that representation, especially in times that we are talking about racial justice and Black Lives Matter,” she said.

Israa Jahan, a sophomore studying microbiology, felt that sense of representation seeing Minhaj speak.

“He’s such an inspiration and he represents my community, which is super cool,” Jahan said. “Just having such a big guest there like that is amazing, and someone who’s so in tune with politics.”

Miranda Heinrich, a sophomore studying supply chain management and fashion design, liked that Minhaj focused his speech on current events.

“This event got me to think more and let me slow down rather than get caught up in a bunch of the welcome activities,” Heinrich said. 

Heinrich also said Minhaj made her reexamine what she could get out of her college experience.

“It's also nice to just hear someone like Hasan Minhaj talk and really take it in and listen about something (that) maybe isn't necessarily all about starting college, and more how you can use your college time,” Heinrich said.


Reach the reporters at gforslun@asu.edu and anatar12@asu.edu and follow @GretaForslund and @AnushaNat1 on Twitter. 

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