The Asian Pacific American Resource Center, which aims to support education and the empowerment of Asian American, Pacific Islander and Native American students, opened its first designated space at the University of Minnesota last week.
The center was funded with a national Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions grant. To qualify for this funding, a university’s student body must be at least 10 percent Asian American and Pacific Islander students, and have at least half of its students qualify for certain financial aid. The University of Minnesota is one of three Midwestern institutions to win the grant.
“There was a need for a space with paid staff who look like us and can provide support with college life and academics,” said Maikha Xiong, an APARC student mentor and coordinator. “APARC recognizes that we have Asian American students here at the University.”
In addition to providing academic support and a speaker series, APARC runs the Asian American Pacific Islander Students Promoting Inspiration, Resilience and Empowerment (ASPIRE) student mentorship program, which partners upperclassmen with younger students.
Xiong said she and other students, motivated by their own college experiences, designed the mentorship program with a focus on helping younger students develop their identities as Asian American and Pacific Islander students.
“APARC strives to help AAPI students really think about their identities as AAPI community members and how they can grow personally and academically,” said Kong Her, APARC director.
Having a physical space designated for these students is important in combating a common feeling of identity loss among AAPI students, he said.
“The Asian model minority myth creates invisibility for those who are really underserved and marginalized within the Asian community,” Her said, adding many young AAPI people feel silenced by these societal pressures.
A goal of APARC’s work is to highlight Asian diversity, since there are a number of Asian ethnicities, Her said. APARC hopes to highlight this diversity through education.
More University students have become interested in taking Asian American coursework as a result of the support network APARC has built during its two years on campus, Xiong said.
The University only offers a minor in Asian American studies, Xiong said, but APARC is working to expand the program into a full department because of increased interest.
Along with giving AAPI students support and a physical space, the AANAPISI grant provided funding for two additional Asian American courses every academic year, Her said.
This semester, the Asian American studies program is offering courses in Asian American theater, pop culture and images with the grant money, said Josephine Lee, a University professor and APARC’s co-grant investigator.
“The need to support AAPI students and educate everyone about AAPI identities and communities is going to continue to grow,” Lee said in an email. “The new resource center is definitely a big step in that direction, but we still have a lot of work to do.”