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Sac State will lead new center to support Asian American students throughout the CSU

Sacramento State's successful Full Circle Project, an academic support and leadership program for Asian American Pacific Islander students, is an example of why the University was chosen to lead the new California State University Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Student Achievement Program, which aims to help these students succeed. (Sacramento State file/Andrea Price)

Sacramento State will lead a new, comprehensive CSU center that will serve Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students in their journeys toward attaining college degrees.

The California State University Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Student Achievement Program’s central office likely will be at Sac State Downtown.

A nationwide search will be conducted to hire a program director, who officials expect to be on board this summer. By fall, the center plans to begin reviewing proposals from CSU campuses for funding of programs and services.

“We take a holistic approach, and we have a track record of success.” – Carlos Nevarez, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs

The center, which will receive $8 million annually from the state, will provide support to universities across the CSU in the form of grants, technical help, outreach, statewide and regional trainings, and curriculum development, all designed to attract and retain AANHPI students and help them graduate and launch careers.

“We’re excited to be the hub of this program, which will help students across the CSU achieve success,” said Carlos Nevarez, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

“There is no magic bullet. It will take many partnerships and collaborations across multiple areas to establish a systemwide approach.”

Students who identify as AANHPI have been underserved in college, he said. Many are the first in their families to pursue higher education, and are yearning for access to resources to guide them through college.

“A lot of times, there is a mismatch between their cultural traditions and the values that colleges are representing, so students struggle to adapt,” said Nevarez. “It is up to us, the institution, to adapt to their needs. Once we do that, it no longer will be a question of whether they go to college, but where.”

The new office will oversee culturally appropriate academic, social, and other services designed to enhance the CSU educational experience for AANHPI scholars.

More than 22% of Sac State’s students identify as Asian American Pacific Islander. The University’s Full Circle Project, an academic support and leadership program for those students led by Ethnic Studies Professor Timothy Fong, has become a national model for student success.

Sac State’s graduation rates have risen for six straight years, including dramatic increases for AANHPI students. The campus recently opened a cultural center to help those students explore their identities and histories, address health and wellness, and assist them in their academic and career paths.

The University’s efforts to close equity gaps, improve graduation rates, and help students of all backgrounds feel comfortable and welcomed “made Sacramento State the obvious choice” to lead the new center, President Robert S. Nelsen said.

Sac State’s four-year graduation rate has soared from about 9% in 2016 to more than 28% last year. Graduation gains have occurred across the board, including among Asian American students.

“We take a holistic approach, and we have a track record of success,” said Nevarez.

Fong agreed.

“Sac State has one of the largest and most established Asian American Studies programs in the CSU system,” he said. “The Full Circle Project, which began in 2011 with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, is fully grounded in Ethnic Studies and Asian American Studies, and this is the foundation for our student achievement successes.”

The University also is home to groundbreaking programs such as the Educational Opportunity Program, the Cooper-Woodson College Enhancement Program, and the College Assistance Migrant Program, he noted.

Other college campuses “want to emulate what we have accomplished for our students,” Fong said. “Sac State will now more directly share our efforts with campuses throughout the CSU system.”

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About Cynthia Hubert

Cynthia Hubert came to Sacramento State in November 2018 after an award-winning career writing for the Sacramento Bee. Cynthia believes everyone has a good story. She lives in East Sacramento with her two cats, who enjoy bird-watching from their perch next to the living-room window.

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