Momentum Award: Eric Nam

Despite the bleak atmosphere, already two hours before the doors were scheduled to open, John Hancock Hall was already slowly being wrapped by a string of people. The gravity was palpable, and it was obvious in the atmosphere that something of importance was under way.

Inside, Eric Nam, A&S ’11, diligently finalized preparations for the first ever Kollaboration Boston, an Asian-American talent show founded with the mission to empower through entertainment and media. Witnessing the scale of the event alone, it would be impossible to come to the conclusion that a college senior had singlehandedly brought the Kollaboration enterprise to the city of Boston.

Although Eric himself seems to be physically incapable of any type of boasting, the fact of the matter is that Eric alone sought out Kollaboration to come to Boston and created a city-wide show attended by 1,100 people, unified for one night under a single mission. The fact that the venue was sold out is a testament to the success of the event.

There is a clam, deliberate air to Eric that immediately inspired those around him into being more confident and comfortable with themselves. Despite the fact that the interview was for him, he was the one who immediately started off with the questions. Eric Nam has a vested interested in the lives of others.

Robert Capalbo, associate director of development and founder of the Shaw Leadership Program, best describes Eric as one who “has an air about him that instills confidence.” Capalbo continued, saying “I think it’s because he treats everyone as an equal. He accepts everyone for who they are and that’s rare.”

From talking to Eric, however, one would never get a really accurate understanding of the significance of Kollaboration. Perhaps what can best exemplify the significance is the fact that Kollaboration LA can be credited for jumpstarting the now successful career of the musical group, Far East Movement. For Eric, bringing Kollaboration to Boston made perfect sense.

“Growing up in Atlanta there was a good amount of Asian Americans but there was nothing that really pulled the community together. And as I left for college, that’s when Kollaboration Atlanta started, so I just missed it. I asked myself, why isn’t there one in Boston? There’s so much talent and so much diversity. So I got into contact with Kollaboration Atlanta and then they put me into contact with LA and they basically told me okay, go for it.”

After the approval was granted, Erica basically found himself spearheading the project alone. The prospect of creating and implementing a city-wide show for 1,100 people with the extensive support of large institutions would be intimidating for most, but for Eric, he felt comfortable taking charge of the project. “I didn’t want to ask the school for help because I understood that this had the potential to be something that could be for all the schools in Boston, as it should be.”

So with a team of 32, mostly college students, Eric undertook the daunting project that became a defining chapter of his senior year. Eventually securing 18 corporate sponsors, Kollaboration Boston successfully became a production large enough to honor the admirable mission it was championing: the empowerment of talented Asian Americans through the use of diverse entertainment, breaking down racial stereotypes perpetuated by Asian American’s themselves as well as the dominant media groups.

Indeed the inspiration to bring this show to his own college city stemmed from personal grief and struggles that he faced as an Asian American passionate about dance and music. “I was frustrated because I know that the talent is there, but the dominant culture doesn’t provide an environment where Asian Americans have a viable option to showcase their talent.”

With this knowledge of the cultural climate in mind, it then becomes obvious that Eric was the most appropriate individual to establish Kollaboration in Boston because he lives by the mantra of sorts that one should never define oneself by the boundaries or definitions constructed by others. He hates the phrase, but he himself had to admit that he has an apparent “passion for life.” That passion is evidenced by his extensive achievements: a member of the Shaw Leadership Program, UGBC cabinet in his sophomore year, an intern at Deloitte Consulting his junior year, studying abroad in Beijing, and found BCSWAG.

Those who know Eric best understand that all that Eric inflicts upon himself great “physical and mental strain” as described by his roommate Andrew Miller, A&S ’11.

Indeed, this characteristic of Eric marks all he does in the sense that many of his ambitious undertakings are ultimately dedicated to bettering society in some way, often at the expense of his own personal wellbeing. The common strain among his projects is that they are all in some way imbued with an intrinsic altruism dedicated to enhancing the lives of those affected by his work. At Boston College, the phrase “men and women for others” is perhaps too often used, but Eric embodies the phrase and fully gives himself to all that he commits to.

“I don’t know where he gets the energy from. When you’re around him, he has this apparent and obvious energy that is wonderful to be around,” Capalbo said. Using the Latin phrase, “primus inter pares,” meaning the first among equals, Capalbo described Eric as one who easily emerged as a leader among leaders during his freshman stay in the Shaw House.

Asked to reflect where this impossible energy seems to stem from, Eric has an understanding and appreciation of his humble background. He commented that his parents can be primarily credited as the driving force and inspiration in his life for all that he does and achieves.

“It’s the typical immigrant story. They came to Atlanta, Ga., with very modest resources. Knowing that they were able to achieve all that they did with so relatively little always pushed me to be better. I was always expected to be great and I felt I had a responsibility to do so.”

It is perhaps this appreciation of his own past that provides him with the critical momentum to move forward and beyond BC. Deferring the outstanding opportunity to work at Deloitte Consulting. Eric will serve as an IDEX Social Media Fellow in India, assisting in school system reform.
As with Kollaboration, Eric is once again developing community.