Meet Your AC: Aeriel A. Ashlee

Name: Aeriel A. Ashlee

Gender Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Where do you call home? Minneapolis, MN, USA

Tell us a little about yourself. How do you spend your time outside of KAAN?

I am a transracial, transnational Asian American adoptee. I was born in Seoul, South Korea and adopted at 4-months-old by a White family in Minnesota, USA. I am a proud mommy to a beautiful and bubbly 17-month-old, Azaelea Grace, whom I adoringly co-parent with my husband, Kyle. I am an Assistant Professor of College Counseling and Student Development at St. Cloud State University. I regularly practice yoga and meditation and I love to travel.

Dancing at KAAN

KAAN 2017 in Pittsburgh, PA. Dancing with my husband (Kyle) to Chasing Lovely performance.

What is your role on the Advisory Council?

I currently serve as Membership Engagement Co-Chair on the Advisory Council. I also chair the Scholarship Committee, and have previously served as a Conference Program Reviewer and as the Annual Conference Adult Adoptee Dinner Coordinator.

Meeting my foster mother

In the summer of 2016, I traveled to Seoul and met my foster mother, who cared for 40 babies over the course of 13 years. I was her 5th foster child, and only the 2nd to come back and visit her as an adult.

How did you hear about KAAN? How did you decide to get involved in the AC?

I first heard about KAAN in 2014. I was looking for a community of other transracial Asian American adoptees and found information about KAAN on Facebook.

How many KAAN conferences have you attended?

I have attended six KAAN conferences (Minneapolis in 2014, St. Louis in 2015, Pittsburgh in 2016 & 2017, and Minneapolis in 2018 & 2019).

What issues/topics related to adoption are you most interested in? (e.g., What types of topics have you presented on or attended at previous KAAN conferences?)

I am deeply passionate about creating space for and centering the voices of transracial Asian American adoptees. I do this in my scholarship (researching and writing about the racialized experiences of transracial Asian American adoptees in higher education). I also have extensive experience presenting and facilitating on a variety of topics related to transracial adoption at KAAN, IKAA, and in other conference communities. At KAAN, I have presented on adoptee/adoptive parent relationships, navigating racial microaggressions, situating transracial adoptees in #BlackLivesMatter, critically exploring whiteness with White adoptive families, transracial adoption research, and transracial adoptees in interracial relationships.

Stepping in at Jeju

In summer of 2015, I traveled to Seoul for the first time since my adoption in 1985. According to my adoption file, my birth/first mother was from Jeju (an island off the southern peninsula of Korea that is famous for the haenyeo female divers, who are known for their independent spirit, iron will, and determination). This photo was the first time I stepped into the sea water at Jeju, a symbolic and emotional moment connecting me to my biological ancestors.

What do you love most about the KAAN community?

I love that the KAAN community is a dynamic mix of adoptees; adoptive parents, siblings, and, spouses; children of adoptees; first/birth families; and others who work with or have a connection to adoption. At each KAAN conference, I am reminded of the many voices that comprise the adoption community and I am continually grateful that KAAN creates space for so many diverse perspectives, while also thoughtfully centering adoptees. Also, now that I'm a mom, I absolutely love that KAAN is a place where my daughter can be immersed in a community where adoption is the norm. Watching her play with other adoptees and the children of adoptees brings me incredible pride and joy.

Zaela and me at SCSU

This photo was taken in winter 2019, with my daughter at my new job as Assistant Professor of College Counseling & Student Development at St. Cloud State University.

What a fun or random fact people might not know about you?

In 2015, I co-wrote a book with my life and business partner called VITAL: A Torch for Your Social Justice Journey.

Anything else you'd like to share with the KAAN community?

To my fellow adoptees: Wherever you are on your journey, know that you are not alone. You matter. You are worthy. You are enough.

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