February 25, 2014

Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Asian Americans Assists Largest Campus Minority Group

Individuals of Asian and Asian American heritage comprise the largest minority group on the UIC campus.
By Monica M. Walk

FOR 15 years, the Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Asian Americans (CCSAA) at UIC has offered representation and support to the largest minority group on the University campus. The committee promotes the social, cultural, and professional welfare of UIC’s Asian American students, faculty, and staff and reports to Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares.

“NEARLY 20 percent of the student body is Asian and Asian American,” said CCSAA Chair Jessica Canlas, associate director of communications in the College of Pharmacy Office of Advancement and Alumni Affairs and a UIC alumna. “The creation of this committee was very student-driven. There already were similar committees on status for Blacks and Latinos. Asian and Asian American students said, ‘What about us?  We are a big constituency and need some support.’”

THE COMMITTEE was approved in 1999 during the tenure of Chancellor David Broski.

“THE COMMITTEE sheds light on awareness of diversity,” Canlas said, noting that students and their families may hail from very different countries—such as China or India—with very different cultural identities.  “Asian Americans are a diverse group, and we have diverse needs.”

UIC HOLDS the Federal designation of Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution (AANAPISI), and it is also the only funded AANAPISI in the Midwest. (See more at www.uic.edu/depts/aarcc/aanapisi.html). “This is a big deal,” Canlas said.  “It allows the University to receive funding from the Federal government to support recruitment, retention, and graduation of Asian American and Pacific Islander students.” In fact, UIC is one of only two schools in the nation that currently holds two AANAPISI grants, totaling close to $4 million over six years. “Members of the committee in faculty roles were instrumental in making this happen,” Canlas said.

ESTABLISHMENT OF the Asian American Resource and Cultural Center in 2005 was another big moment for campus community, Canlas said. “The committee is a volunteer advisory group and can only do so much,” she said. “The center has dedicated staff focusing on serving students, and a physical space to build community and provide support. It is lively and crowded!”

CCSAA SUPPORTED the effort to establish the Asian American Resource and Cultural Center to provide academic and community support, which, like the earlier Chancellor’s committees, already existed for the campus Black and Latino populations. AARCC is also currently seeking a new director for the Asian American Resource and Cultural Center. (Visit www.jobs.uic.edu for more information.)

THE 16-MEMBER Chancellor’s committee comprises 13 participants from faculty and staff, plus three students. A call for members goes out each spring. Additional interested students, faculty, and staff are always welcome to participate on subcommittees that develop programs, workshops, and events addressing the employment, academic, and personal needs of the campus community. CCSAA also has opportunities for campus community members to apply for funding to attend conferences that align with the committee’s mission.

LAST SPRING, CCSAA began holding a community forum each semester. The event is open to all, with the intention of explaining the committee’s purpose and priorities while canvassing for topics and areas of concern from campus members. The first forum drew a standing-room-only crowd of more than 60 people.

“WE SERVE the campus community, and need to know how they want to be served,” Canlas said. “This is a nice forum to voice opinions. I am very pleased people come and tell us.”

THE NEXT forum is slated for Wednesday, April 16 from 3-5 p.m. Location to be determined.

TOPICS OF recent concern and action for the committee include:
  • Analyzing the disparity of front-line student services staff compared to the student population. Canlas noted that staff serving students in front-line positions have not reflected the size of the Asian and Asian American student population.
  • Reviewing marketing for recruitment for a diverse pool of employees.
  • Researching diversity of the Civil Service employee pool.
  • Supporting the need for more space for the Asian American Resource and Cultural Center.  Despite a recent expansion, the space is proving small for the number of users it attracts, Canlas reported.
  • Discussing the cultural issues of mental health concerns. A first-aid training was held in December, and Canlas anticipates additional education programs in the future.
  • Discussion of the promotion and tenure process for faculty members.

“I THINK just like any other ethnic and racial group on campus, Asian Americans are integral to the University’s identity,” Canlas said.  “We are unique, and the breadth of diversity is incredible here. I am proud the Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Asian Americans has been able to develop a firm identity for Asian Americans on campus. We display the importance of our role here, and in doing so, bring our community together. At UIC, we can all be proud of who we are. We come together to do great things on this campus.” 

FOR MORE details about the committee or to attend a monthly meeting, visit  http://www.uic.edu/depts/ccsaa/index.html.

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