“See the unseen. Be the voice for the unheard.” These words were part of the lessons imparted during the first APPEX (Asian Pacific Promoting Educational Excellence) Pre-Conference in 2007 in Orlando for the joint ACPA/NASPA National Conference. Six years later, we returned to Orlando for the 2013 NASPA National Conference to explore our professional development as individuals and as a community. The sentiment for advocacy from the first APPEX was still very much part of the seventh pre-con as we focused on creating a pipeline for Asian American/Pacific Islander student affairs practitioners.
Spending Sunday of the conference together, graduate students, new professionals, and mid-level professionals worked together to unpack the challenges we face in career development and advancement. The elements of the day included participants being led through exercises to examine their goals, their career plans, and next strategic steps. Then, Henry Gee and Audrey Yamagata-Noji facilitated a session to develop strategies that transform our perceived limits as sources of strength. Julie Wong moderated a panel of senior student affairs officers who shared their experiences and journeys, highlighting challenges they face but also the benefits of attaining such positions. The panelists included Mike Segawa, LuoLuo Hong, Ajay Nair, and Anna Gonzalez. They spoke abut how every job they had in their careers fed into shaping their approach for their current role. Whether it was working residential life, cultural centers, or community organizations, they spoke how each role contributed to the next and how they utilized the network of professionals to help guide them through each phase.
That day, each of us, whether we were part of the planning committee, we had 10+ years of experience, or we were just starting our journey as student affairs practitioners, took away connections that will serve as building blocks for a life-long engagement to meet “call for higher visibility and a stronger voice for AAPIs, encouraging more research and increasing AAPI representation and leadership in higher education” (Agbayani & Ching, 2012, p. 343). We know the path is not an easy one, but through our community, we can be successful in reaching new heights and be bold without boundaries.
Reference: Agbayani, A., & Ching, D. (2012). Epilogue. In D. Ching and A. Agbayani (Eds.),Asian american and pacific islanders in higher education: Research and perspectives on identity, leadership, and success, p. 335-344. Washington, D.C.: NASPA
Written by Hikaru Kozuma, Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs/Executive Director, Office of Student Affairs, University of Pennsylvania (firstname.lastname@example.org)