Sac State opens new and updated centers to support Asian and Black students
March 01, 2023
Two centers – one new, and one newly expanded – opened to fanfare and celebration on Tuesday, Feb. 28, offering Asian and Black students places of support and a greater sense of community.
The Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Center and the expanded Martin Luther King Jr. Center celebrated grand openings with speeches, tours, entertainment, a diversity march, and other festivities.
Both centers are on the second floor of Lassen Hall and are important hubs for traditionally underserved students.
In addition to serving current Sac State students, Chao Vang, director of Educational Equity Access, said that the APIDA Center will give high school and transfer students another reason to attend the University.
“It will give parents and students a sense of calm, and a soft handoff into college,” Vang said, noting that Sac State’s APIDA Center is one of just six in the CSU.
The MLK Center, originally opened in 2015, offers similar services and fellowship for Black students.
“We want them to feel protected, safe, and valued on campus,” said Kaifa Yates, the MLK Center’s program director. “We want to help them get their degrees and start their futures.”
The two centers help support the University’s commitment to students of color. They also are a testament to the University’s work to create an antiracist, diverse, and welcoming environment for all, administrators said.
In October, Sac State expects to open the new Esaktima Center, which will serve Native American students.
Sac State administrators, Asian community leaders, and others gathered Tuesday at a breakfast ceremony celebrating realization of the University’s goal of opening a central hub for APIDA students. The event’s keynote speaker was journalist and Sacramento native Laura Ling.
“Sac State values its students,” said another featured speaker, state Assemblymember Stephanie Nguyen. “Otherwise, there wouldn’t be an APIDA Center.
“Surround yourself by people who value you.”
Later, supporters gathered at Lassen Hall for an open house and ribbon cutting.
The APIDA Center builds on the tradition of Sac State’s Full Circle Project and Project HMONG, existing programs that support APIDA students. At the center, students can receive help transitioning to college, referrals for resources on and off campus, and referrals to graduate schools, among other services.
Because about 20% of its students identify as APIDA, Sac State is a federally designated Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution, which makes the University eligible for grants to support those students.
The new center amplifies the heritages of students from more than 40 countries and hundreds of languages and dialects. Features include a lounge area where students can meet and mingle, a conference room, workspaces with computers, and artwork and photographs that depict APIDA diversity.
The center will sponsor events such as API (Asian Pacific Islander) Welcome Week, API College Day, an API Leadership Summit, and an API Speaker Series.
Sac State’s MLK Center, a place where Black students can explore their culture and heritage, underwent significant expansion. It added rooms for counseling, research, and community outreach, among other activities, said Marcellene Watson-Derbigny, associate vice president for Student Retention and Academic Success.
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At the MLK Center, Sac State works with local businesses and community organizations to assist students in making college and career connections. It also fosters a sense of belonging, inclusion, and cultural empowerment for students.
The MLK Center is among the largest in the CSU system, Watson-Derbigny said.
“We have created an opportunity for our students to thrive and affirm the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” she said, referring to the iconic civil rights leader.
The center will add to Sac State’s efforts to boost enrollment and graduation rates for Black students. Although 13% of Sacramento residents are Black, only about 6% of Sac State students are. The University continues to narrow the gap in graduation rates between students of color and the overall student body, and graduation rates overall are rising.
“Our students are thriving,” Vice President for Student Affairs Ed Mills said at Tuesday’s breakfast ceremony.
“When I see our students, I see a generation of people who will lead us forward and give us hope.”
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