Rising Star: Travis Kiatoukaysi uses the domino effect to make change
By Allison Riley, Asian Avenue magazine
School University of Colorado at Boulder
Hometown Denver, Colorado
Involvements Asian Unity, Hmong Student Association of Colorado, Korean American Students at Boulder, Vietnamese Students Association, CollaborAsian, Collaboration of Asian American Student Leaders, Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, Hmong American Association of Colorado
Travis in three words Caring, Compassionate, Complex
Hobbies/interests Dance, Art, Music, Games
His dream job Restaurant Owner
Quote he lives by “It is not our mistakes that define who we are; it is how we recover from those mistakes.”
“All I do is follow these urges,” said Travis Kiatoukaysi, describing his passion to support communities.
“I have always had an intense feeling to do more and do better for others and myself.”
A business administration student at CU Boulder, Kiatoukaysi has a sincere desire to impact the lives of others in more ways than one.
Kiatoukaysi, fondly known by other students as “TK”, serves as President of Asian Unity (AU) on his campus. AU is dedicated to increasing awareness of Asian cultures and helping students gain a valuable college experience through workshops, community service, networking, academic support, and other functions. Along with AU officers, Kiatoukaysi manages the organization and facilitates its events, including areas related to his field of study such as advertising and budget management. In March, AU joined seven campus organizations to host CollaborAsian, a month filled with events focused on leadership, cultural awareness, social justice, community, and scholarship fundraising for a prospective Asian American college student.
According to Kiatoukaysi, overall the month was successful, mainly due to strong community support. Kiatoukaysi describes the Asian American Pacific Islander community—especially the Hmong community—as very tight. He said that groups within the community practice a ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ ethos.
He said, “By supporting our events, the community knows that we will be supporting them as well. This reciprocity between the community and the organization creates the success of these events.”
The APIA community’s strong presence has led to the anticipation of certain events each year. “I believe that the most anticipated events for each group that I am involved with are the culture nights or cultural shows,” said Kiatoukaysi. “All the other events are fun but the most work is put into the culture shows and I believe that is what drives everyone’s anticipation.”
On campus, Kiatoukaysi has held positions in public relations with AU, served as co-president of the Hmong Student Association of Colorado, and adviser of the Korean American Student at Boulder. He also sat on the CollaborAsian committee, served as volunteer chair of the Collaboration of Asian American Student Leaders, and counselor coordinator of the Business Leadership Program 2013.
As a first generation Hmong American, Kiatoukaysi experienced an identity crisis growing up. The Hmong people are still very new to the United States; thus a significant amount of Hmong culture is still intact.
“Trying to be 100 percent Hmong or 100 percent American was definitely unattainable,” said Kiatoukaysi, who grew up in a largely Hispanic/Latino community. Kiatoukaysi’s ability to adapt comfortably with his diverse background is revealed through his connection with the Asian community and the student community overall at CU Boulder.
As Kiatoukaysi continues his work, he looks forward to how ‘the domino effect’ will carry his legacy. “I don’t have to make a huge impact in everyone’s lives or have everyone remember my name,” he said, “But I want to at least make an impact in some people’s lives and have them do the same for others.”