By Cynthia Hubert
Sacramento State soon will be home to a cultural center that will foster academic and personal success for students whose heritages represent more than 40 countries and hundreds of languages.
The Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Center (APIDAC) will offer programs and services to help the more than 6,400 Sac State students who identify as APIDA earn their degrees and achieve their career goals. “Desi” broadly refers to people of East Asia or South Asia, including those from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan.
A virtual event scheduled for Oct. 7 will kick off a series of outreach and open forums to start to define the center.
Based in Lassen Hall, the new center is envisioned as a hub for resources including academic advising, leadership development, internship opportunities, and connections to student organizations, said Chao Vang of the University’s Student Academic Success and Educational Equity Programs. The center also will sponsor events such as API Welcome Week, API College Day, an API Leadership Summit and an API Speaker Series.
The center will help ensure that “our voices are part of the University experience.” – freshman Chi Meng Vang
Sac State’s center will be one of seven in the CSU system dedicated to APIDA students. Six UC campuses also have stand-alone centers, Vang said.
“It is a testament to the University's commitment to amplify and affirm Asian Pacific Islander Desi American student experiences,” he said. “Being that Sac State is among a handful of colleges and universities in the CSU and UC to have this center, it is a momentous accomplishment by faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members.”
The new center also will build on the work of programs such as the Full Circle Project (FCP), which offers academic support and leadership activities for Asian Pacific Islander (API) students. The federally funded program will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2021.
The FCP, funded by the U.S. Department of Education in 2011 and again in 2016, has successfully worked to improve graduation rates for traditionally underserved and first-generation students. The four-year graduation rate for API students at Sacramento State in 2012 was just 5% compared to 9% for the University overall. Since then, the API grad rate has more than tripled, reaching 17% in 2020, closer to the University’s overall rate of 22%. Efforts to close that gap continue.
Sac State was designated an Asian American Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution in 2010, when the University’s enrollment met the U.S. Department of Education’s 10% enrollment threshold of Asian American and Pacific Islander students.
Because of their unique cultural backgrounds, many APIDA students feel disconnected on college campuses, Vang said. As a result, they are at higher risk of dropping out and falling short of their goals. Many are low income and the first in their families to attend college. The new center will help foster a broader campus strategy to ensure that APIDA students have the best chance to succeed, Vang said.
Its launch “marks a significant milestone in University history to provide a comprehensive arsenal of services to APIDA communities and to build upon existing work to advance educational equity,” said Marcellene Watson-Derbigny, Sac State’s associate vice president for Student Retention and Academic Success.
Sac State envisioned and developed the center with the help of Asian Pacific Islander community leaders, she said.
Chi Meng Vang, a Sac State freshman majoring in Criminal Justice and a student leader for the center, said he hopes the center will help bolster confidence, community and empowerment among APIDA students.
The center will help ensure that “our voices are part of the University experience,” she said. Moreover, it promises to help “Asian Pacific Islander Desi American students and families who lack the crucial information and understanding about financial aid, job or workshop opportunities” achieve their dreams of college degrees, graduate studies, and careers.
Another student leader, Business major Gervin Loren Tuazon, said the center will help students gain leadership experience and build “a clearer sense of community on campus.”
“As a Filipino student, this will be my new go-to center to engage with,” he said.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story used an incorrect pronoun for Chi Meng Vang. The correct pronoun is he.