UIC awarded grant to support initiatives for Asian American and Pacific Islander students

The latest grant to UIC will be focused on providing culturally responsive academic support, life-skills education and community-engaged experiential learning.

For the fourth time since 2010, the University of Illinois Chicago has received the Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Minority-Serving Institutions program.

The latest grant, which was announced last month through a congressional notification, will award UIC $1.5 million over a five-year period. The initiative supports the recruitment, retention and graduation of Asian American and Pacific Islander students at UIC. It is funded by the Department of Education’s AANAPISI program, which started after the federal designation was created through legislation in 2007.

The latest grant to UIC will be focused on providing culturally responsive academic support, life-skills education and community-engaged experiential learning, according to Karen Su, UIC clinical assistant professor of global Asian studies.

Su will serve as principal investigator and project director, and Mark Martell, director of the Asian American Resource and Cultural Center, and Anna Guevarra, UIC associate professor and founding director of the UIC Global Asian Studies Program, will serve as co-principal investigators. The initiative falls under UIC’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Engagement, as well as the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“I’m excited that the new grant will give us an opportunity at UIC to continue strengthening the programs and services that make a positive impact on the educational experiences and outcomes of so many UIC students,” Su said. “It’s been inspiring to see how transformative culturally responsive curriculum and academic support can be for UIC’s Asian American and Pacific Islander students and many other students who have connected with us and participated in AANAPISI campus programs throughout the years. I look forward to working with our campus partners to continue enhancing UIC’s capacity to serve our students.”

Since 2010, UIC has been federally designated as a Minority-Serving Institution, a Department of Education status given to universities that serve high enrollments of racially and ethnically underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students. That same year, UIC became the first Midwest-based institution designated an AANAPISI. UIC is one of only 20 AANAPISIs that have been funded since 2008 and is one of 166 AANAPISI-eligible institutions. In 2016, the Department of Education affirmed UIC’s designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution.

The university is part of a group of AANAPISIs that make up only 5% of colleges and universities in the U.S. but enroll 40% of Asian American and Pacific Islander college students and three-quarters of low-income Asian American and Pacific Islander students, according to officials.

Initiatives of the new grant will include providing tutoring services, educational advising and mentoring, first-year seminars that build life skills like financial literacy and career development, and a community-engaged curriculum in global Asian studies to build social and political awareness and civic involvement. Applications for the grants have been developed, written and submitted by faculty and staff in the Asian American Resource and Cultural Center and the Global Asian Studies Program.

The previous three grants have brought $5.6 million to UIC since 2010. 

The third and most recent grant, which began in 2015 and concluded last month, helped fund several initiatives including the Asian American Mentor Program, which integrated a global Asian studies seminar into its structure. The initiative bolstered a peer mentor program established by the Asian American Resource and Cultural Center in 2006, which has become a student-centered program where mentors create and facilitate seminar curriculum. The mentorship program continues to help incoming first-year and transfer students adjust successfully to UIC.

The grants provided funding for research highlighting the need for disaggregation of student data and showcased the positive impact of the mentoring program for Asian American STEM students. 

The grants also established career development and community engagement opportunities through on- and off-campus internships, which will continue. A Community Forces podcast highlights the experiences of some of the interns and the community organization leaders they worked with.

Students in global Asian studies courses also pursued oral history projects and contributed their talents to the Queer Asian American archive collection and the Dis/Placements: A People’s History of Uptown Project, which archive and reveal rich histories and communities of Chicago and the Midwest.

Other activities funded through the grant included financial literacy workshops as well as civic engagement programs related to the 2020 Census and voter registration. In addition, the grant provided resources for a wide range of informative and creative programs. 

The announcement of UIC’s latest award comes as the week of Sept. 27 through Oct. 3 is designated nationally as AANAPISI recognition week.

UIC plays a major role in educating Asian American and Pacific Islander students in the Midwest and nationally. Illinois has the highest population of Asian Americans in the Midwest, while Illinois, Ohio and Missouri have the highest population of Pacific Islanders in the Midwest. Almost 90% of Asian Americans in Illinois live in the Chicago metropolitan area, which contributes to the 20% of UIC students who are Asian American. 

The U.S. Department of Education’s term “Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander” refers to Asian American students with origins from East Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia, including the Philippines; and Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander students with origins from Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands and other Pacific Islands. The federal funding has supported many first-generation, immigrant, low-income students.

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