In keeping with the 2010 NASPA National Conference theme of “Live the Legacy Be the Movement,” the Asian Pacific Islander Knowledge Community (APIKC), on the suggestion of founding member Henry Gee, took on the task of documenting the history and evolution of the KC as it stands today. To complete this task, interviews of founding members, active members, and former co-chairs were conducted. The end result of these interviews is represented in two ways. One is a timeline that highlights significant events in the APIKC’s history. The other is the following narrative centered around the themes of the responses from the interviews conducted. Special thanks to Kevin Gin, Danielle Howard, Rouel Velasco, Hikaru Kozuma, and Karlen Suga for conducting the interviews and to Dr. Doris Ching, Dr. Evette Castillo-Clark, Shane Carlin, Henry Gee, Dr. Hal Gin, Dr. Anna Gonzalez, Joy Hoffman, Dr. Lori Ideta, Sunny Lee, Christine Quemuel, Dr. Julie Wong, and the National Student Affairs Archives at Bowling Green for their contributions to this project. Another heartfelt thank you goes to all of those who have had a hand in and who continue to shape the API KC into the vibrant and special community it is today. Your dedication to the Student Affairs Profession and the Asian Pacific Islander and Desi American (APIDA) Community in higher education serves as an inspiration to all.
A major theme of all of the interviews conducted was growth. Founding members such as Dr. Doris Ching, Dr. Hal Gin, and Henry Gee were all involved in NASPA before “minority groups” such as African Americans and Latinos formally began getting together and were eventually organized into Network for Educational Equity & Ethnic Diversity (NEEED) in 1988. Henry himself attended the first NEEED meeting and was the only non African American or Latino professional present. He later served as the national Chair of NEEED. As time passed, NEEED evolved into separate networks and finally into Knowledge Communities, which now encompasses a variety of functional areas and identity-based groups. Sunny Lee, who served as the co-chair of what was then the API Collective and eventually the API Network from 2000-2003, and Shane Carlin, one of the APIKC’s first members, recalled times where gatherings for the community attracted 15-20 members. By contrast, a networking lunch at the 2009 NASPA National Conference in Seattle attracted upwards of 50 members.
While the APIKC has grown in critical mass and numbers, another aspect of growth has been seen in individual KC members. Christine Quemuel, who served as a national co-chair of the APIKC from 2003-2005, noted how exciting it has been to see up and coming members of the KC receive promotions, earn graduate degrees, and move on to leadership positions within NASPA and other organizations. One of the most recent examples of an APIKC leader who has moved on to a national role is former National co-chair Dr. Evette Castillo-Clark, who is now serving NASPA as National Director-Elect of all Knowledge Communities.
Many of the former chairs and founding members identified “making connections” as being a central part of the APIKC’s development over the years. Dr. Anna Gonzalez, one of the API KC’s first co-chairs recalled in her interview that she and her co-chair, Sunny Lee, made it a special point to invite folks to join the API KC who were involved in NASPA before the formal API group was formed. Social events planned by the APIKC at national and regional levels are highly anticipated and play an important role in facilitating those connections.
In addition, facilitating connections was a common theme of the goals set by national c-chairs. Joy Hoffman and Dr. Lori Ideta served as national co-chairs from 2007-2009 and sought to establish strong connections with similar APIDA related organizations such as the Asian Pacific American Network in the Association of College Personnel Administrators (ACPA). Dr. Evette Casillo-Clark and Fabian DeRozario (2005-2007) worked to create closer connections with the Regions in NASPA through regional representatives and were successful in maintaining a full slate of them throughout their term.
A common goal set by all of the former National Co-Chairs of the APIKC was that of engagement. For some co-chairs, it came in the way of establishing committees and appointing leaders for them who came from varying levels of experience in the profession. That particular strategy was employed by Christine Quemuel and Dr. Julie Wong, who served as National Co-Chairs from 2003-2005.
A hallmark of the APIKC experience as identified by founding member Henry Gee and others who were interviewed is the active and continued involvement and engagement of Senior Student Affairs Officers (SSAO) in the community. The connections made through the interactions between SSAOs and new professionals, graduate, and undergraduate students have often resulted in mentoring relationships that transcend functional areas and regions.
Over the years, both new and seasoned administrators have gotten involved in the KC and engaged on the multitude of issues concerning APIDA students and adminstrators. Through work on the leadership team as committee members or regional representatives, or participation on planning committees for pre-conference sessions, or sponsorship of workshops and sessions centered on APIDA issues at the National Conferences, the APIKC and its members has increased the level of thoughtful engagement around these topics.
In many ways, the APIKC in its present day began as a result of collaboration. NEEED, which led to the formation of Networks and eventually Knowledge Communities, was a collaboration between minority ethnic groups within NASPA. In addition, the former APIKC co-chairs who were interviewed spoke of collaborating with groups within and outside of NASPA as being a part of their terms. Most recently, the APIKC collaborated with ACPA’s APAN and the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity’s API group APINCORE to address the issue of South Asian Inclusion within higher education and in their respective organizations.
Former national co-chairs who were interviewed cited communication as both an important goal and challenge. Dr. Evette Castillo-Clark noted that the lack of communication between regions and the National Knowledge Communities became such a huge area of concern, that regional knowledge community chairs were established. Joy Hoffman and Dr. Lori Ideta continued to work toward establishing communication lines between the national APIKC and regional chairs during their term.
Ways the APIKC has increased overall communication with its members over the years include the development of a regular newsletter, an increased web presence, and now the incorporation of social media to assist in helping members feel connected outside of the annual conference.
Generation of Knowledge
One vehicle of increasing the visibility of the APIDA community within higher education is the generation and creation of knowledge. As such, leaders of the APIKC have worked to increase the number of keynote speakers who identify as APIDA at national and regional conferences. In addition, a major push is made every year to increase and recognize the number of educational sessions presented at national and regional conferences. During Dr. Evette Castillo-Clark and Fabian DeRozario’s term, the Research and Scholarship Committee was established to provide coordination and structure to those efforts. A regular column called Knowledge Nuggets was created in the newsletter with the goal of encouraging members to think about current issues related to the APIDA community in higher education and still exists today.
The concept of mentoring is key in the APIDA community’s cultural contexts and in the greater Student Affairs professional community, and it is also an area highly celebrated by the APIKC. Founding members and former co-chairs of the APIKC spoke warmly in their interviews about the mentors who assisted them in pursuing the Student Affairs profession and note their strong desire to “pay it forward.” Mentoring is such an integral and recognized part of the APIKC, that an annual award recognizing efforts in this area was established in 2008 and later named after founding member and celebrated mentor, Henry Gee. Of special note is Dr. Anna Gonzalez, former APIKC Chair and Co-Chair, who leads one of the most celebrated mentoring activities in NASPA, the NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program.
Sense of ‘ohana (family) and community
One of the functions of NASPA’s Knowledge Communities is to assist members in feeling connected to the bigger NASPA organization through smaller, more specific communities. The value of community is one that is also highly celebrated within the APIKC. From its beginnings, the APIKC has sought provide a welcoming environment for its members. Christine Quemuel cited the term sense of ‘ohana, which in Hawaiian means family, as a goal she and her co-chair Dr. Julie Wong sought to achieve during their terms. She spoke about having an APIKC option for each meal at the conference so folks had many options to establish connections with one another and build a sense of community. This was a continuation of the efforts of Dr. Anna Gonzalez and Sunny Lee, who recognized the importance of inter-generational connections and worked to help facilitate them during their terms.
Now, many members view the APIKC as an ‘ohana—one they look forward to connecting with each year at the NASPA National Conference and through other forms of communication.
Visibility and Advocacy
By all accounts, the impetus for the creation of NEEED, Knowledge Communities, and the APIKC itself stemmed from the need for advocacy and visibility. Dr. Doris Ching recalled being approached by a group of young API professionals in the late 1990s who felt isolated and discriminated against on their campus and expressed a need for support and mentoring.
A key way the APIKC has increased the visibility of APIDA professionals in higher education is through encouraging the selection of APIDA speakers for national and regional conferences. This movement was started by Dr. Amy Agbayani of the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa in the late 1990s. Her desire to see more APIDA conference speakers resulted in icons such as Helen Zia and Dr. Gwendolyn Mink, daughter of the late Congresswoman Patsy Mink, being invited to serve as featured speakers at NASPA National Conferences.
While the APIKC continues its advocacy within higher education, efforts have not been limited to the APIDA community. During Joy Hoffman and Dr. Lori Ideta’s term, a labor dispute occurred in the hotel that was slated to host the 2007 Western Regional Conference in San Francisco. Upon hearing of the dispute, the APIKC and Latino/a Knowledge Community worked advocate that policies be created to ensure disputes like these were taken into account when considering future conference venues.
Just the Beginning
The APIKC has had a rich history--one that truly represents the dedication and passion of its diverse membership. While it is important to celebrate history, it is equally important for future leaders to continue the movement that has become the APIKC’s legacy.