Another First: Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month at NC State!

All paths lead to the Belltower

Fall surrounds the Memorial Belltower. PHOTO BY ROGER WINSTEAD

This year, NC State is celebrating its inaugural Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) History Month with a variety of events that will be hosted by numerous student groups. AAPI History Month also includes a weekend leadership symposium with special guests from the University of Florida’s APIA (Asian Pacific Islander American) Center. The leadership symposium would not have been possible without an OIED Diversity Mini-Grant as well as co-sponsorship from University Housing, Poole College of Management and First Year College.

  • See next week’s Diversity Digest for the AAPI Heritage Month Calendar of Events!

AAPI Heritage Month 2016In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed a bill to designate May as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. May was chosen to coincide with the immigration of the first Japanese immigrants to the U.S. as well as the completion of the transcontinental railroad that was built by Chinese manual laborers. Having experienced our first ever AAPI history week in April 2015, the students of ASIA (Asian Students In Alliance) thought it would be best to spread the events into an entire month for the 2016 commemoration.

We asked Sonali Shah, current vice president of Asian Students in Alliance (ASIA) and a second-year student studying Nutrition Science, What does it mean to you that NC State is celebrating its first-ever AAPI history month?

Growing up as an Asian American, I was not always recognized as a minority or even represented, especially on a college campus. I never had a symposium or recognition of my experience, let alone a month. Last year, ASIA organized its first-ever AAPI history week to recognize the AAPI community. The events go beyond Asian culture and also address many social issues like faith, stereotypes and gender roles. This year, I feel really honored and privileged to be a part of the first-ever AAPI history month at NC State, including the Interfaith Panel I am facilitating as part of Diversity Education Week Revisited on March 15, 2016. ASIA is not only organizing events but we are collaborating with many different organizations to make this month possible including the Counseling Center, Women’s Center, DiVE, UAB, First Year College, Housing and Poole College of Management. I am really looking forward to AAPI history month to showcase our respected cultures and to bring more awareness to the needs of the AAPI community at NC State.

We asked Nina Ondona, current president of ASIA and a junior studying Mechanical Engineering, What do you think it means to the university (both the AAPI and non-AAPI community) to commemorate AAPI History Month?

To have an AAPI History Month allows for the AAPI community at NC State to showcase our diverse cultures as well as speak out about issues that impact us. We come together under the label “Asian-American” but in reality, so many of us come from different backgrounds and heritages. AAPI History Month allows for us to share a variety of these with the community. Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders are very often voices that aren’t heard on college campuses when it comes to combating issues other minority groups also experience. By bringing AAPI History Month to our campus, we are able to educate those who are unaware of the depth and complexity of our community and introduce them to diverse ideas about what it means to be AAPI at NC State.

Natalie Nguyen is assistant director of the GBLT Center and also advisor to Asian Students in Alliance at NC State.