Centuries ago, Taiwan was given the name 寶島, or “Treasure Island,” for its majestic natural beauty. Today, it is a beacon of democracy in Asia and home to diverse cultures. Now, we (ITASA) are lucky beneficiaries of this exciting Taiwanese heritage. This year at ITASA 2016 West Coast Conference at Stanford University, we aim not to be limited but enriched by our past, and we will keep going until we have each created our own treasure that empowers and animates each of us.

Creating our own treasure is crucial yet difficult. One of the greatest modern myths is that of pursuing a proper, adequate life – excelling, but in very normal avenues. Aim above the mean. Stay ahead of the curve. Catch up with the crowd. We are asked to stand out, but not too much – we must place ourselves in front of the mob, but never more than a foot away. The outline of the perfectly adequate life is handed to us as a densely annotated map. Go seek the wealth of great treasure – by all means! Yet these seemingly precious treasures are as common as they come – attend professional school, raise successful children, become a manager, accumulate a sizeable wealth, tenure, marriage, a house … and so on and so forth. It turns out, the difficulty does not lie in the acquisition of treasure, but in identifying what exactly is worthwhile of pursuit – this is what it means to identify and create our own treasure.

Thus we chose our theme, “Treasure Island,” as a celebration of the treasure in our shared cultural heritage, reflection on the disenchantment of the frequently traversed road, and testament to the belief that we can create and identify our own unique treasures in life.