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Increasing Student Engagement

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APAHE Pre-Conference
April 5-7, 2017

Throughout my student affairs professional career, I have always believed in the importance of centering student voices and empowering student agency. I do not want to work for students, rather I want to work with students. By working with students, we create better programs that are more relevant to their needs and interests, which subsequently increases student buy-in and engagement.

In my previous role, I co-oversaw a program called Social Justice Scholars, which provided opportunities for student leaders, who are passionate about social justice issues, a platform to take their passion and use it to educate their peers on issues of power, privilege, and oppression. With staff advising, the scholars organized and facilitated workshops, dialogues, forums, and open mics to educate their classmates and the university about social justice. Rather than implementing programming from a top-down, staff-to-student process, our goal was to empower students by providing them with the skills, tools, and resources that they use to develop student-led and student-centered programming to address issues on campus and in their communities.

In my new role at the Asian Pacific American Resource Center at University of Minnesota Twin Cities, I am adopting a similar framework for our new peer mentor program. I have hired four student leaders to serve as Student Coordinators (SC). SC’s were tasked with working with me to create the peer mentor program from scratch and help me shape it to be student driven. Throughout the process, my SC’s were ecstatic because they knew they were creating an important legacy for their peers and future generations of students. They helped me create content and curriculum, assist with mentor and mentee recruitment, and boost overall student engagement. Through this process, we infused student voice within the core of the program and ensured its relevance to our students.  Because we are centering student voices, we have been able to build relationships and trust with some AAPI student organizations quickly. This is has been particularly important for APARC because we recently have created our resource center and many students do not even know of existence. Getting students to engage with us is a huge challenge and we hope through this infusion of student voice, we can better build awareness and engagement for our new center.

Attending APAHE was a wonderful experience. Personally, as a new professional, connecting with other passionate educators was rejuvenating, exciting, and affirming. Professionally, since this is our first year of being an AANAPISI institution, it was helpful to have an opportunity to learn from other folks and their strategies to addressing issues on their campuses. In particular, listening to Christine Quemuel discuss how to strategically partner with various campus partners, such as Institutional Research and Academic affairs, was helpful for me to think about institutionalizing the work to support AAPI students beyond just the resource center. As this is a designation for the entire institution, the work of supporting and empowering AAPI students should be done across the entire institution. In addition, I was very interested when she discussed her experience incorporating Student Affairs administrators with Ethnic Studies to support provisionally admitted students in academically succeeding while also learning more about their histories. After learning about her experiences, I am excited to try and incorporate similar collaborative work for our peer mentor program.

I am thankful for the opportunity provided to me by APIASF to attend APAHE. It was a unique experience to be in a room full of hundreds of passionate AAPI educators doing work to support our communities. In the future, I hope to continue building relationships with folks within the AANAPISI and APAHE community so that we can build a powerful AAPI community together.

Peter Limthongviratn
University of Minnesota

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