Honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Posted by Office of Diversity & Inclusion on Monday, May 1, 2023 at 9:24 AM PDT

Dear Campus Community,  

The month of May presents a welcome opportunity to honor and celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) heritage. The term “Asian American and Pacific Islander” is officially designated; but we acknowledge that this term is used to encompass a myriad of different countries, communities, and cultures. Some also refer to this month as Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Heritage Month (APIDA). Notwithstanding the designation, we honor and affirm each community for its unique and multifaceted story. To our students, faculty, staff, and administrators, and alums, we see you, and we appreciate all you bring to our university and the larger community.  

Year-round, but with a specific focus this month, we celebrate the stories, successes, and countless contributions of the AAPI community. At the same time, we also must remember and acknowledge our country’s complex history of oppression and recognize the ongoing racism and violence faced by the AAPI community. We affirm our commitment to combat that systemic racism, however and wherever it manifests.  

In line with our LIFT SU principles, and in support of our commitment to pursuing inclusive excellence, we recognize and celebrate that fostering inclusion means amplifying voices from a variety of perspectives. We have invited two of our colleagues to share their stories and reflections on what Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month means to them. We offer deep gratitude to Michelle Minjoe Kim, Director, Office of Multicultural Affairs, and the leader of our College of Science and Engineering, Dean Amit Shukla, for sharing their stories and perspectives, and trust that you will receive their words with openness. 

Michelle Minjoe Kim 
Director, Office of Multicultural Affairs 

This May, my husband and I are taking our two young biracial children to Seoul, South Korea for their first time. The stress of traveling with young kids aside, there aren’t enough words to describe how excited I am to return to my motherland (it’s been 5 years, no thanks to newborns and COVID) and show my 4-year-old where her umma comes from. I find myself daydreaming about navigating through the crowded public markets and introducing her to new street foods. I’m tickled by her excitement about renting a hanbokwhich we’ll do before visiting palaces and folk villages. I can’t wait to show her Youngnak Presbyterian Church, one of the largest Presbyterian churches in the world, which also happens to be the place I was baptized, her grandparents got married and great-grandparents served as deaconess and elder. Above all else, I am excited to be immersed in a world where Koreanness is the default and to have my children see, hear, smell, taste, and just experience everything that is Korea. 

My husband and I have always known that as two monoracial people, whose formative years were spent in communities reflective of our own racial and ethnic identities, we would be entering into unfamiliar territory raising biracial children in the PNW. We continue to stumble through and learn what it means to guide them through their self-discovery absent the kind of community and representation we had ourselves. Whether it's in trying to teach our children the Korean language or expose them to Korean food, holidays, and other cultural elements, I’ve realized that much of the responsibility and burden falls solely on me. And as I’ve become more curious about teaching my children these things, I’ve been confronted with the reality that I’ve forgotten so much – about Korean history, significant historical and political figures, lyrics to the South Korean Anthem – everything I had once known. And though there is some grief that I feel, I am trying to embrace the joy in relearning and rediscovering. Learning alongside my children as they are only beginning to explore and develop their unique way of being Korean. 

One of the ways we can celebrate APIDA heritage month is by learning something new about this diverse collection of people and communities. If you haven’t seen the docuseries on PBS called “Asian Americans”, I highly recommend it. 

Dean Amit Shukla 
Dean, College of Science and Engineering  

As someone who grew up in India and migrated to the US as a graduate student, I know firsthand the transformative power of global education. I have seen how education can open doors and create opportunities, both for individuals and for communities. As the Dean of the College of Science and Engineering, I am committed to providing our students with a rigorous and innovative education that prepares them for success in the global economy. 

But as we celebrate Asian American Heritage month, it is also important to recognize the challenges that some in the AAPI community face. I understand first-hand the challenges of migration and integration, and deeply value the importance of creating spaces that are welcoming and inclusive for all. Each of us can be an ally and a mentor and make an impact in the lives of many others. 

STEM education is a critical part of this vision. As the Dean of the College of Science and Engineering, I am passionate about engaging our community so we can educate the workforce with the skills and knowledge they need to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges. But I also believe that STEM education must be rooted in the values of empathy, compassion, and social responsibility. We must teach our students to be global citizens who are committed to creating a more just and equitable world. At the heart of Jesuit education is the belief that education can be a force for positive change in the world. We believe in educating the whole person, in developing not only our students' technical skills but also their ethical and moral frameworks. Education is about creating global citizens who are committed to making a positive difference in their communities. 

In this Asian American Heritage month, let us celebrate the contributions of the AAPI community, and commit ourselves to creating a more just, inclusive, and equitable society where each person belongs and can thrive in their own way. 

Resources and Renewal to Inclusion  
To show support throughout Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, please visit the Office of Diversity and Inclusion website to find inspiring Zoom backgrounds, and a range of educational resources including information on AAPI community events taking place in May.  

As we recognize Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, let us celebrate and honor the immeasurable contributions of this community. Let us also reaffirm our commitment to work against ongoing racism, xenophobia, and violence against those in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, and to do our part to continuously co-create a welcoming and inclusive experience for all. 


Eduardo M. Peñalver, President  
Natasha Martin, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion