During the course of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the Asian, Desi and Pacific Island communities at the UO celebrated the theme “Together We Rise.” From an awards banquet to the Asian Night Market, a driving force was the Asian, Desi and Pacific Islander Strategies Group.
Visibility of the group is high during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, but the group is active all year providing a regular supportive space for UO and community members to connect, discuss and act on issues related to their communities. The group works to amplify the knowledge, resilience, and contributions of its campus and community members and raise awareness at the university on issues of diasporic Asian, Desi and Pacific Islander communities.
“ADPI Strategies Interest Group is an important part of campus because it provides self-identified Asian, Desi, and/or Pacific Islanders and allies a space to build community and support each other through our work,” said Joann Zhang, co-chair of the group and the multicultural academic advisor and retention specialist for Asian, Desi and Pacific Islander students.
More than 30 distinct groups make up the U.S. Asian, Desi and Pacific Islander community, with roots in the Far East, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the Indian subcontinent and South Asia, which “Desi” represents. Each of the communities has its own history, culture, language and other characteristics, and yet they too are connected.
The strategies interest group was initiated in 2015 by David To, former Asian, Desi, Pacific Island retention specialist at the Division of Equity and Inclusion’s Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence.
“The work of the Asian, Desi and Pacific Islander Strategies Interest Group is important throughout the year, but their tireless efforts during Asian Pacific American Month is critical,” said Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Yvette Alex-Assensoh. “They bring to light the important cultural offerings and lessons of this multicultural community and their struggles and needs, as a reminder of the work that needs to be done on our campus and beyond.”
The Asian, Desi and Pacific Islander Strategies Interest Group is one of four current strategy groups on campus made up of alliances of faculty members, staff, students and community members from traditionally underrepresented groups. Strategies groups are different than other campus groups in that they focus on student needs and student success but also work to support faculty members and staff, and make connections with the local community. Members are volunteers who donate their personal time and energy in support of making the university a more welcoming place.
All strategies groups support and advocate for academic and professional excellence and inclusion. They enhance the UO experience by providing opportunities for intentional cross-campus collaborations; fostering understanding; and encouraging engagement, empowerment and justice.
Each group sets its own goals and approaches. In addition to the Asian, Desi and Pacific Islander Strategies Group, other current groups are the Black Strategies Group, LatinX Strategies Group and the Coalition for Allyship and Engagement.
“The work of the strategy groups reflects our commitment to LACE: Love, Authenticity, Courage and Empathy, and is modeled on the work of Native Strategies, UO’s very first strategies group, which was started by Assistant Vice President Tom Ball,” Alex-Assensoh said. “Participants give freely of their time and service to support members of their communities at the UO and beyond, create essential cross-campus and community collaborations, and educate us all about the rich heritages and histories of their communities, as well as the challenges they face.”
While Asian Pacific American Heritage Month will be over at the end of May, the work of the Asian, Desi and Pacific Islander Strategies Interest Group will continue creating affirmation for its communities and working on and with other campus and community groups all year long.
—By tova stabin, University Communications