Traditional Asian music, foods, arts, and pastimes took center stage as more than 100 people who work at Norfolk Southern’s Goode Building in Atlanta joined Asian colleagues Friday, Jan. 27, to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
The celebration was the first major event sponsored by the Atlanta Office Diversity and Inclusion Council since the group was formed last year. The council is one of 12 diversity and inclusion councils across the NS network designed to create awareness and support the values of diversity and inclusion as a competitive strength of the company.
About 5 percent of the Goode Building’s workforce of 2,200 is Asian. The diversity and inclusion council suggested hosting an event to celebrate the Year of the Rooster, which began Jan. 28.
“We want all employees to be aware of our diverse workforce,” said Ling Meng, senior technology engineer information technology, and a China native. “Through this event, we can introduce them to the flavor and culture of Asia.”
CEO Jim Squires welcomed celebrants through a telepresence hookup from Norfolk, emphasizing NS’ commitment to a diverse workforce.
“Norfolk Southern attracts employees from all over the world, so it is important that we be open and respectful to all cultures,” Squires said. “Acceptance and promotion of our differences makes Norfolk Southern stronger.”
Asia’s most important holiday, Lunar New Year is celebrated annually in China, Vietnam, Korea, Indonesia, and other Asian countries, with festivities continuing for 15 days. While celebrating diversity, the celebration helped connect Asian employees to their homeland.
“We’re excited to introduce these activities to show Americans our Asian traditions, and for our Asian colleagues, we hope the Lunar New Year celebration made them feel that a piece of their home is with them in the U.S.,” said Jane He, business analyst expenditure accounting, who moved to the U.S. from China in 2008. She performed several musical selections on the Chinese zither, an instrument similar to a harp.
“The company has provided a lot of support in organizing this event, and we appreciate what the Diversity and Inclusion Council has done in putting the event together,” she said. “It lets those of us who have Asian heritage feel involved and important.”
Kevin Bui, senior technology analyst, IT, offered new year’s greetings in his native Vietnamese to employees gathered in the Peachtree Room. Clark Cheng, senior director operations research, gave greetings in Chinese, while Kimberly Haggas, technology engineer IT, offered Korean salutations. Michael Widjaja, technology engineer IT, welcomed guests in his Indonesian tongue.