Among the goals of an Ethnic Studies pedagogy is self-determination for black, Indigenous, and communities of color often invisible to and within the academy. Self-determination, or the ability for dispossessed people to center one’s experiences in shaping one’s material reality, was an impetus for the formation of the AA&PI Student Services with the Asian American & Pacific Islander Retention & Education (ASPIRE) Program.
In Fall 2016, SF State received Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution (AANAPISI) funding to create ASPIRE and our office which included the hiring of our now Director Dr. Arlene-Daus-Magbual, ASPIRE Educational Psychologist Dr. Gwen Agustin, and learning communities. In Asian American and Pacific Islander Student Services, we center student identities, narratives, and experiences that may have been invisible and or sidelined in the traditional work of student services. Our priority is to advocate and create opportunities for access and visibility in partnership with the College of Ethnic Studies, Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, Division of Equity and Community Inclusion and our campus community. This partnership addresses the silos of higher education through culturally relevant collaboration in order to provide wrap-around services for our students, support for our faculty members, peer mentorship, and a community of care.
ASPIRE peer mentors and ASPIRE faculty embody transformational role models and mentors who inspire and socialize students to become concerned with and struggle for social justice issues that oppress them personally, within their schools, and in their communities. In Summer 2018, we were able to hire one of our ASPIRE peer mentors, Levalasi Loi-On, as our full-time Student Success Coordinator who helps to provide advising and resources for our students.
Most recently, we received another AANAPISI grant to fund Responsive Education for Access, Community, and Hope (REACH). Under the leadership of our new Outreach Specialist Dr. Raju Desai, REACH aims to improve and expand the institution’s capacity to eliminate an equity gap in college access, persistence, and completion.
Ultimately, our hope is to create a community that lends support for all involved in the process and our educational space becomes a home to critically reflect and take action to respond as a whole community.
These spaces would not be possible without the work of Dr. Grace Yoo, our Project Director and Principal Investigator, Dr. Luoluo Hong, Co-Principal Investigator, Dr. Laureen Chew, TWLF Veteran Striker and Professor Emeritus (pictured above), as well as our SF State alumni, students, staff, faculty, and community members.
Excerpts from Daus-Magbual. A. (2021). Being Grounded with an Ethnic Studies Legacy: ASPIRE SFSU. About Campus, March-April (2021), 26-29.