Hazelmae Overturf

Speaking from ‘two places at once’

Hazelmae Overturf embraces her AAPI heritage.

May 18, 2021

Hazelmae Overturf keeps one foot firmly planted on each side of her Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) cultural heritage. 

“Having the opportunity to be in two places at once can sometimes feel like a stretch,” says Overturf, senior manager, learning and development, at BECU in Tukwila, Wash. Yet balancing her American perspective with the values of her Filipino heritage also keeps her “culturally open” to the needs of diverse employees at the $26.8 billion asset credit union.  

Overturf joined BECU as a contact center consultant in 2009 after a year teaching English in Korea. She took advantage of opportunities to gain new skills and leadership experience so she could achieve her goal of joining the learning and development team in 2015. She became senior manager in 2018.

Along the way, Overturf gained awareness of how her AAPI heritage shaped her character and skills.

Overturf’s parents came to the U.S. from the Philippines after her father joined the U.S. military. She was raised within the Filipino immigrant community that combined love and support for close-knit families with high expectations for their children.

‘This is a people-learning journey for ourselves and our greater community.’
Hazelmae Overturf

Overturf began speaking up about her own AAPI insights and experiences after anti-Asian rhetoric surfaced during the pandemic and the 2020 election.

“The absence of support was heart-wrenching,” Overturf says, for herself, the people she loves, and those in the AAPI community. “It also inspired me to share more, though. My hope is it will open hearts to this as something that matters.”

During Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Overturf suggests three ways to broaden your perspective:

  1. Recognize that AAPI heritage does not reflect a “cultural monolith.” Ethnic groups included under the AAPI label have widely varied cultures. 
  2. Discard “model minority” assumptions. People with AAPI heritage are expected to be “submissive, always heads-down and hardworking,” Overturf says. That seems positive, but it can cause people with AAPI heritage to be perceived as “other” or “dismissible.”   
  3. Learn about other cultures. Increase your cultural competence. Start by seeking to understand yourself, being open to others, and remembering our shared humanity.  

Addressing AAPI issues is part of Overturf’s broader efforts to build diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). She aims to help people talk openly about differences, respect, and how to honor the past while embracing new approaches. 

“Ultimately, this is a people-learning journey for ourselves and our greater community.”