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Multicultural Action Plan Jamie Ondatje Azusa Pacific University


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My goal for this project was to gain more understanding of the culture of Asian American students and specifically learn how they maintain their Asian American culture while attending college on a predominately White campus. I also wanted to learn how to better communicate with Asian American students that I work with and how to make them feel more welcome on campus. According to Pope & Reynolds (1997), multicultural competence in student affairs may be defined as the awareness, knowledge, and skills necessary to work effectively and ethically across cultural differences (p. 270). By completing several activities that I outlined for the project, I feel I have met my objectives, which included developing an awareness of Asian American culture, gaining increased knowledge of that culture, and developing multicultural skills to work more effectively with Asian American students. I believe I can apply this knowledge to my work with clubs on campus by fully understanding and appreciating the value of ethnic organizations on campus, and opening myself up as a resource for them so they feel supported and validated as integral parts of the campus at APU. I also feel that I have a greater understanding of the cultural norms and values of Asian American students, as well as the unique struggles they face in creating their own identity in college. This awareness can help me to better reach and serve these students by giving them a safe place to be heard and combating stereotypes and assumptions about their ethnicity. My first objective in my action plan was to develop an awareness of Asian American Culture. The purpose of this objective was to educate myself on the culture of students I work with everyday in order to broaden my understanding of them beyond societys stereotypes. My first step in this process was to write a


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personal assessment of my current understanding of Asian American culture, as well as general cultural assumptions that exist in society. As part of this assessment, I also reflected on my experience working with Asian American students this year. I do not know a whole lot about Asian American culture, but from my observations, I believe that family, education, and financial success are important to them. I believe that they enjoy the communal aspect of having friends that are also Asian American, and more specifically, of their specific Asian ethnicity. When I see groups of Asian American students together, they seem more comfortable expressing their sense of humor, speaking their native or second language, and eating their own ethnic foods. In the classroom, Asian American students are very attentive, but generally very reserved, as they opt to take notes and observe, rather than contribute a lot to class discussions. From what other people have told me, my understanding is that in Asia the education is heavily lecture based, and students do not give their input in the classroom; they are expected to listen attentively and study diligently. I assume this is why many Asian American students may not be as comfortable expressing themselves in open classroom discussions, or may not even know quite how to, as there are no structured expectations to meet for most classroom discussions. This may also be the reason that it seems that Asian American students prefer independent work to group projects. They are not typically as assertive in groups, and seem to feel more comfortable working independently on academic projects. Perhaps there is more of an emphasis on individual success in their culture and what they are taught at home that may also cause them some hesitation with working in groups. All of these conclusions are


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only based on my observations, but it is difficult to make generalizations about all Asian American students because their behaviors and characteristics vary greatly depending on their home life, when they came to America, citizen status of their parents, and what specific Asian ethnicity they are. Along with my own observations, I hear cultural assumptions about Asian Americans as well. Generally, people assume that Asian Americans are good at math, finance, health science, and computers. There is a lot of emphasis on honoring their family and showing respect to their parents and their elderly. I believe it is a general assumption that Asian Americans have certain things they do for good luck or good fortune, as well as superstitions about bad luck. There are also a lot of cultural assumptions that specifically apply to Asian American women, such as the idea that cultural food is important to Asian Americans and that the women in the culture know how to cook those types of food. There is also the assumption that most Asian American women are not outspoken, and are submissive to their parents, and in adult life, to their husbands. In my graduate assistantship I work with the student clubs and organizations at APU. There are many ethnic clubs at APU, including several Asian culture clubs, like Japanese Outreach, Korean Student Fellowship, Pacific Islanders Organization, and Asian Pacific American Students Organization. I have had some difficulties in communicating with some of these clubs this semester, specifically with Korean Student Fellowship. I would implement specific policies and procedures and communicate them to the club presidents, but this club would continue to do things in a way that did not comply with my policies. The president did not always come in


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to see me, but often sent his other officers in to make requests. When they came in to make requests (which were often breaking policies in terms of deadlines, or not following proper procedures) they were very direct and demanding of me. When I would try to explain to them the proper procedures, I would often get blank stares in return, lack of eye contact or acknowledgement that they understood me, or sometimes they would even cut me off before I was finished explaining it to them. Their emails also had demanding tones to them, asking me to get back to them ASAP and answer right away, even when they were sending requests after deadlines had passed. At first, I was somewhat put off by this style of communication, feeling like it was demanding, forward, and sometimes even a bit rude. My supervisor kept explaining to me that this was a cultural difference between the Asian American students and me. I have forced myself to have more patience when dealing with this club and although it is typically not my communication style, I have become more forward and direct when talking to officers of this club, because the information seems to sink in better that way, rather than when I give them long-winded explanations. I am still working on my communication with this club, but things have gotten better in terms of them following procedures and policies, and I have gotten to know some of these students better than many other club officers because of how much communication I have had with them. I am hoping that through doing this project, I can gain an even better understanding of these students and how best to serve them and interact with them as a student affairs professional.


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The next step in completing objective one was to attend a meeting of an Asian culture club on campus. I attended the Korean Student Fellowship club meeting because this was the group that I felt I least understood at the beginning of the school year. I enjoyed watching them play a game together, which got them all interacting with one another and having fun together. Even after the meeting, many of them stayed and were dancing together, speaking Korean, and eating Korean food. What I noticed most in this moment was although Asian American students are often perceived as quiet and reserved, they were all very loud, energetic, and relaxed in this environment. This showed me the importance of feeling comfortable and accepted for these students. When they were in an environment where they did not feel ostracized or judged, they were free to let down their guard and express themselves. In addition to giving them a place to feel comfortable, ethnic clubs give minority students greater control over their own educational experiences and status on campus, and empowers them by enabling them to play a more significant role in campus life (Chang, 2002, p. 4). I would love to see this happen more at campus events and in everyday university settings, but in order for this to happen, other students must make an effort to understand and include Asian American students in the majority culture in order to make the whole university a safe zone for minorities. What I also found to be interesting was the fact that there were about 5 White students at the meeting. While I was pleased to see non-Koreans taking an interest in the club, I must admit I was surprised to see them there. What I realized is that this perspective, which I was guilty of sharing in, is exactly why there is not


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more interaction between racial groups on college campuses. Our natural instinct is to gravitate toward people who are similar to us and not push ourselves out of our comfort zones. However, Chang (2002) asserts that developing cross-racial friendships has added benefits to students learning by enhancing their intellectual and social self-concepts, ability to graduate, and satisfaction with college (p. 6). These types of interactions between students will teach them more about themselves and each other than any classroom lecture or diversity training could ever teach them. If we as student affairs professionals can find ways to encourage and foster these types of relationships among students, both the majority and minority students could greatly benefit. If more of us created new norms for ourselves, like going to different ethnic club events, or talking to people we dont know, there would not be such distinct barriers between different racial groups and there would be many more opportunities for learning. The last activity for objective one was to view a film that depicts cultural practices of Asian American culture. The film I watched was Gran Torino, which told the story of Walt Kowalski, a Korean War veteran living in a Hmong neighborhood. Kowalski is very racist and is set in his ways of thinking from decades earlier; he is irritated with the people who live in his neighborhood and does not understand their cultural customs at all. He uses racial slurs as common language and makes broad inaccurate assumptions like the idea that all Asian people come from jungle environments and hate cold weather. He unintentionally becomes involved with his next-door neighbors when Thao, a boy who lives there, tries to steal his car as an initiation into a Hmong gang he is being pressured to join. Against his will, the


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neighbors slowly befriend him and show him their culture and he finds that he gets along with them much better than he could have imagined, even though they are very different from one another. He ends up becoming a protector for their family when they get caught in the middle of gang violence, and ultimately ends up sacrificing his own life to ensure their safety. What I enjoyed most about this film was watching Kowalski slowly warm up to the Hmong people and their culture, even though he was so skeptical in the beginning. Sue, Thaos sister, takes it upon herself to educate Kowalski about the Hmong culture by inviting him over to eat with them, and correcting his far-fetched comments about Asian culture. He also begins to ask her questions and she learns more about him as well, which leads to a mutual understanding and friendship between them. He becomes sort of a father figure to Thao, since his father is not around, and saves him from the gang lifestyle many boys in the Hmong culture choose. Although Kowalski embodies a more extreme example of racial intolerance at the beginning of the film, his interaction with the other characters shows how people can become more understanding and accepting of people who are different from them if both sides are willing to be patient and open to explaining their different perspectives. My second objective was to gain increased knowledge of Asian American culture. The purpose of this objective was to take my research about Asian American culture a step further and try to actually put myself into the shoes of Asian American students by learning how it feels to be the minority in the majority


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culture, as well as the unique challenges they face in trying to maintain their own unique identity. My first step in reaching this objective was to read a book or article that discusses the history of Asian culture, as well as challenges Asian Americans may face with transition into American culture, and difficulties for Asian American students entering college. The book I read was an eBook published by NASPA called Understanding College Student Subpopulations: A Guide for Student Affairs Professionals. I read the chapter about Asian American students to better understand how I can make this group of students feel validated and welcome on a majority White campus. The book discussed the fact that Asian American values are derived from ancient Confucian teachings that emphasize academic achievement, respect for authority, and self-control. Based on my interactions with Asian American students, it is evident that these values are still upheld in what they are taught at home and the values they carry with them to college. These expectations are what help them to excel academically in college, as they are not unfamiliar with the concept of being self-motivated and self-disciplined. Because of their high levels of academic success, as well as a large amount of data that shows high retention rates for Asian American students, there is a common misconception that Asian American students are overly successful and seem immune to any issues or failure in their college experience. This myth often causes this group of students to be overlooked and to have their college experience oversimplified, which can deprive them of the extra attention, help, and resources they may need. Furthermore, this broad generalization of all Asian American groups does not account for differences


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within the subpopulations that exist in this group and make it difficult for those from disadvantaged backgrounds to advance educationally and economically because neither their institution nor their own communities provide them with support or assistance (Bonner, Jennings, Chen, & Singh, 2006, p. 393). This illustrates the harm in making assumptions that all Asian American students are well adjusted, self-sufficient, and well supported by their family. Another emerging issue of Asian American students in higher education is a prevalent feeling of alienation. The book referenced research, which highlighted increased occurrences of racism, discrimination and violence against Asian American students. The most disturbing part of this research was that discriminatory statements directed at Asian Americans on campus were often attributed to faculty as well as students. Unfortunately, the book mentions that researchers have typically focused on variables related to ethnicity and culture and given relatively minimal attention to understanding how Asian Americans internalize and cope with race and racism, again illustrating how the emotional struggles and needs of this group are often overshadowed by their culture and their academic achievement (Bonner et al., 2006, p. 394). There is also an inter-group prejudice existing within the Asian American community that adds to this feeling of alienation. It is usually characterized by some of the more wealthy Asian American students trying to distance themselves from the less educated and poorer Asian American groups on campus to avoid being grouped together and associated with these other groups. Another factor that contributes to feelings of alienation is the lack of Asian American leadership on


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college and university campuses. The book gives the reasoning that students are disconnected due to the fact that they cannot relate to the people who are making the decisions that affect them. It is difficult for students to accept and take ownership of an institution when they feel that they are not a part of the institution (Bonner et al., 2006, p. 395). This would explain the idea that Asian American students are usually perceived as only participating academically on campus, and not being involved socially or otherwise. I agree with the books suggestion that institutions need to continue to strive to have a diverse faculty and staff so that all student groups feel represented and validated on campus. Reading this book helped me understand the culture in which many Asian American students have been raised, and how it influences their values, behaviors, and self-expression in college. It also helped me to see the trouble in assuming that all Asian American students are alike; when in reality they all come from very different cultures and backgrounds. I would like to make more of an effort to understand the different Asian ethnicities, including their different customs and values. With this knowledge, I can be more aware of the reasons behind the behaviors of Asian American students and make more of an effort to address their needs as individuals. I now see how important it is for me to be an advocate for more Asian American, and other ethnic minority, leaders on campus in administrative, faculty, and student positions, in order for all students to feel like they have an equal voice on their college campus, and are empowered to take on positions of leadership to change the dynamics of the majority culture.


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The next step in objective two was to arrange to meet with faculty advisers for Asian culture clubs to discuss unique challenges and needs of Asian American students. For this portion of the project, I met with Scott Okamoto, who is an adjunct professor at APU and advises the Asian Pacific American Student Organization (APASO), and Dr. Debbie Gin, who is a professor at APU and advises the Korean Student Fellowship Club (KSF). When I asked Mr. Okamoto about Asian American students maintaining their cultural identity on predominately white campuses, he said most do not. He reflected on his undergraduate experience and said that he disowned his Japanese culture to feel like he belonged. This is true of many Asian American students, who feel like embracing their culture only makes them stand out as being different, rather than fitting in. The problem is there is not really anything that helps them find their way back to their cultural identity, and they become just an ethnic-looking version of the majority White culture. In APASO, students can feel like they can have shared experiences with others and not have to explain themselves. Although clubs like APASO, which welcomes all Asian ethnicities, are a great resource for students, it can also bring unique challenges in mixing different customs and cultural behaviors. Mr. Okamoto said the term Asian is problematic because it groups together and generalizes many different ethnic groups, which are often extremely different from one another. This can sometimes result in tension and misunderstanding within the Asian group. To prevent this, Mr. Okamoto said that a large part of what they do in their club is discuss the history and culture of many Asian ethnicities, so the students can better understand one another.


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When discussing how Asian American students ethnicity affects their college experience, Mr. Okamoto said that the students who have no interest in exploring their culture in college are not as affected. They will still hear racist or ignorant remarks occasionally, but they are more able to not let it affect them as much because they do not see their Asian ethnicity as an important part of who they are, so they do not get upset about comments that are made. Chang (2002) says that students who take this approach eventually complete their degrees and move on without having made even a minor impact on the racial dynamics of the campus life (p. 4). While this is not an especially healthy or effective way to deal with their identity, it is the way that many of them get through college without feeling different from everyone else. For those that embrace their Asian culture, they are seen as foreign and not understood, which makes it difficult for them to find friends and causes them to feel alienated from their peers, and the university as a whole. This can cause many of them to keep their head down and finish college as quickly as they can, while others transfer. Mr. Okamoto shared that many Asian American faculty that he talks to have similar struggles and say they feel invisible. He also pointed out that it is not just Asian American students who feel this way; he hears from other minority students who face the same issues. When I asked him what I could do as a future student affairs professional to be a resource for these students and make them feel welcome on campuses I work at, he said that making an effort to build relationships with the students was the most important thing I could do. Even making an appearance at these clubs events


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sends a message to the students that they are validated, and going out of my way to attend their events shows them affirmation and encouragement. Dr. Gin shared a similar perspective to Mr. Okamoto with regard to the students who attend cultural clubs. She said that students who attend these club meetings have already established their cultural identity; it is the ones who do not know where they fit that we should be concerned about. She said an informal term for these students within the Asian American community is bananasthey are yellow on the outside, but White on the inside. Chang (2002) says that students who experience these feelings often try to adopt and assimilate the norms of those who operate most successfully with the mainstream, with hopes of eventually integrating into those groups, but they often find that it compromises their cultural heritage or sensibilities (p. 3). This internal conflict of trying to figure out how they identify themselves and where they fit in can cause a lot of tension and confusion for these students who feel that their outer appearance does not define them. Furthermore, this struggle of trying to constantly make themselves fit into White culture and blend in can lead to self-loathing because they do not fully understand and accept themselves for who they are. Dr. Gin also pointed out the difficulty with the term Asian, asserting that Asian Americans are the least monolithic group that exists, as they have different foods, religions, languages, values, and cultural hierarchies. There are many other unique groups to consider, such as different generations, recent immigrants, second-generation, and international students. Despite all of these differences, they are still all lumped together and thought of as forever foreigners. This was not a


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term I had heard before my interview with Dr. Gin, but what it basically means is that no matter how Americanized Asians become, or even if several generations of their family have been born in the U.S., they will always be thought of as nonAmerican. Dr. Gin gave examples of common things people say that depict this viewpoint, such as where did you come from? You speak English so well; you dont have an accent, and you are not American. Since many people feel that Asian Americans are not truly American, they feel that they do not know American ways. This is one of the main reasons that Asians are not often seen in leadership roles in companies, organizations, and on college campuses. According to Dr. Gin, only about 1% of university provosts and presidents are Asian American, and most of that percentage is made up of leaders from University of Hawaii alone. Chang (2002) highlights the two main reasons why minority students tend to shy away from leadership roles: for some students of color, engagement is too personally taxing, and they may not feel comfortable, but rather alienated on campus (p. 4). When this is taken into account, it is easier to understand why Asian American students are seen as just getting through college and not getting involved in leadership roles. If they do not see people who look like them in leadership at the university, it would also make sense why they would feel like they were not represented on their own college campus. As student affairs professionals, we need to be advocates for leadership from ethnic minorities in a variety of roles on campus, including faculty, student positions, and administrators, so all students feel empowered and heard. Some challenges that Korean students specifically face come from the way they are raised. Often Korean immigrant parents want most for their children to


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succeed, and they believe that the best way for them to do this is to assimilate to the majority culture. Unfortunately, in doing this, the students are giving up a part of who they are. In the Korean culture, it is believed that anyone can achieve anything if they work hard enough. This can be problematic in a few ways for Korean American students. They blame themselves when they do not succeed at something, and they never take into account the natural talents they were or were not born with because there are no such discussions about these things in their own homes. They also cannot cope with limitations put on them by prejudices that exist in society which keep them from succeeding in certain situations. Regardless of the reason, they will always blame themselves. Emotional development is also not highly emphasized in Korean homes, so if these students are struggling with any anxiety, stress, or other emotional issues, they do not feel like they are supposed to talk about them with anyone. This all contributes to Asian American students needs being overlooked, as many people only see their academic success and seemingly level-headed demeanor and assume that they do not have any challenges in their college experience. When I asked Dr. Gin what I could do to better serve these students, she said taking initiative to reach out to them is important because they are typically hesitant with non-Koreans until they feel comfortable around them. She also emphasized the importance of understanding societal assumptions and biases, as well as my own. Her advice was to seek first to understand, which I think is the key to moving toward a more welcoming and understanding environment on college campuses.


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Having these interviews with the club advisers really made me understand the larger pressures and inner conflicts that Asian American students are dealing with. Because Mr. Okimoto and Dr. Gin are both adults, they were able to express to me their analysis of their own college experiences and the many stages of growth they have gone through to fully understand and accept themselves as Asian Americans. My conversation with Dr. Gin in particular brought a lot of clarity to the communication issues I was having with Korean students at the beginning of the year. She explained to me the cultural value of hierarchy and delegating responsibility, as well as many other cultural values and upbringings, which made me understand why the students went about things in a certain way. I would say that these interviews were the turning point for me, during which I went from just trying to gather information about the culture to letting it all sink in and applying it to better understand my daily interaction with these students. My next activity for objective two was to interview Asian American students on campus to identify ways in which their college experience has been impacted by their ethnicity, and how they have been able to maintain their cultural identity. The first student I interviewed was Sam, a sophomore at APU. He was born in Korea and lived there until he was five-years-old. He then came to the U.S. with his brother and lived with a guardian here while his parents stayed in Korea. He went back to Korea for three years during junior high and then returned to the U.S. for high school and college. Because of Sams unique experience of living in both countries throughout his childhood, he really has a strong understanding of both American and Korean culture. Living in two cultures has created some struggle for him, though, as he told


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me that in Korea, young people are expected to respect their elders with no questions asked, while in the U.S. kids are taught to speak their minds. This caused a lot of tension for Sam with his guardian and his parents. When I asked him how he maintains his cultural identity on campus, he said he doesnt necessarily. He does not flaunt his Korean culture, and even said he gets annoyed when other Korean students do. Rather, he tries to fit in to the majority culture as much as possible and is willing to answer questions about his ethnicity when they arise. He feels most excluded from the majority culture in his classes, especially ones that teach the Bible. He said he felt like he was at a disadvantage because while everyone else understood right away what the professor was talking about, including American idioms, he could not always keep up as fast as other students. Because different ethnic groups have different social customs, Sam said he sometimes find it difficult to adjust to different ethnic groups and make friends with them. He said, even though we dont acknowledge out loud that we are minorities, we know we are the minority, and we constantly feel outnumbered. He also said that being excluded from the majority culture does not allow them to become fully immersed in the campus and develop relationships, which ultimately prevents them from getting the most out of their college experience. The second student I interviewed was Hannah, who is a senior at APU. Hannah also had an interesting experience with both American culture and Korean culture, as she is half Korean, half White, and has lived in both countries. She said she maintains her cultural identity through participation in APASO, eating Korean food, and engaging in social justice discussions about what it looks like to be both


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Asian and American. She said that maintaining her cultural identity has been difficult because she is biracial. She sometimes feels like she has to quiet one part of her to fit in because she is always seen as the other. With her Korean friends, she is not seen as fully Korean and with her White friends she is only seen as Asian. The way she manages this is to find places that help her express different parts of who she is. Part of her relates to APASO, while another part relates to her friends in the Social Justice major, and another side of her is tied to the Third Culture Kids. She has learned that she will never have just one friend that can completely relate to her, but she can have many different friends who understand and relate to different parts of her. Some other challenges she discussed were the model minority stereotype, and trying to break through the exclusivity of majority culture. She said that she remembers getting good grades in math in high school after studying for days, but someone would always make a comment that she got the good grade because she was Asian. She wishes that people would allow other people to define themselves before making assumptions based on racial stereotypes. She said that many ethnic minorities just accept the stereotypes or ignore them, and do not realize that they are perpetuating the ignorance by not correcting people. She also described mainstream culture as a fortress that is very difficult to break through to change peoples ways of thinking. Particularly, with regards to Christians, who she said are used to doing things a certain way and want to continue to do them that same way. She finds herself retreating when being faced with this majority culture because she


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doesnt always know if it is safe to express herself, or if she will be hurt by something someone says out of ignorance. The third student I interviewed was Kenny, who just graduated from APU in December. Kenny is Chinese and Cambodian, and grew up in Tennessee. He said that in his kindergarten through 12th grade experience, his schools were 98 percent African American, so he has experienced feeling like the minority among different races. When he came into college, he found himself trying so hard to blend in with his White friends that he sometimes forgot he was Asian. This caused an internal conflict for Kenny, and he began realizing that he had to affirm his ethnicity and who he was, instead of trying to hide it. In his experience as an Asian American student on a majority White campus, he said there were always subtle comments, misunderstandings, and sometimes blatant ignorance from people who meant no harm, but didnt realize the damage they were doing. He said that many students who are on the receiving end of these comments become so tired of being judged for their skin tone. The challenge they have is to get other people to understand how they are made to feel, when the majority culture has not experienced it themselves. Kenny said he feels a responsibility to counter typical Asian stereotypes to try to break the pattern of assumptions. He says he makes an extra effort to speak up in class and be social and outgoing because people assume that Asian students are quiet and meek. He said many minority students realize they are different, but because they cant do anything about it they ignore it. Kenny chose to embrace his ethnic identity, but not


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let it solely define who he was as a person. By choosing to be himself in all situations, Kenny found his college experience to be very enriching. I really enjoyed doing these student interviews because it gave these three students a chance to voice their struggles and unique experiences, and it gave me a glimpse into what everyday life is like for them. Yet again, I saw how very different the experiences can be for students who may look similar on the outside, and how much we miss when we make assumptions that people of certain ethnic backgrounds are all the same. The problem is often target group members experiences are rendered invisible, misconstrued, or ignored by society as a whole (Reason & Broido, 2005, p. 86). Through hearing these students individual experiences, I am much more aware of their unique journeys to self-discovery and self-acceptance, and want to provide a safe space for students facing similar issues to be to have their experiences and input validated. After meeting students who personally deal with these issues everyday, I feel a greater responsibility to challenge the status quo and be an advocate for other students who are made to feel the same way. My final objective was to develop multicultural skills to work more effectively with Asian American students. The purpose of this objective was to take all of the information I acquired in researching the Asian American culture and apply it to my work as a student affairs professional so that I can use my newfound knowledge to better understand and serve Asian American students. This objective was really the most important part of this whole action plan because it is the part that actually creates change. As I go forward into a student affairs career, I will now


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have a better understanding of Asian American students, and other minority students. I can use this knowledge to help educate other students and colleagues in order to stop the cycle of stereotyping and assumptions, and to make these students feel heard and validated. The first step in this final objective is to assess my level of skills and comfort level in working with Asian American students after completion of objectives one and two. I feel like through my research of this culture, I have opened up a whole new realm of awareness in myself. I now know some of the struggles that these students face that I never noticed before. It makes me feel guilty that these students have been overlooked for so long, but it also makes me excited knowing that I can change that cycle by seeking to hear their stories and validate their struggles. Because I know that these students do not always vocalize how they are really feeling, I feel it is my responsibility to take extra care in asking them how things are going for them and offering my help whenever I can. I also feel it is important to be a safe person for them to talk to about issues they may be having in finding themselves while navigating two different cultures. I see the necessity for me to go out of my way to show them that they are important on campus by going to their club meetings, events, and diversity forums. I also understand how important it is to educate myself about the differences between the many Asian ethnicities and not make assumptions about all Asian Americans, but take into account their different cultures, languages, customs, foods, generations and values. I want to take the burden off of minority groups to educate the majority by taking the initiative to educate myself and others about the issues that Asian American, and other ethnic

MULTICULTURAL ACTION PLAN minority, students face. After completing this project, I am so much more

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comfortable working with Asian American students because I feel like I better understand their values and ways of doing things. I am actually excited to continue working with this student group now that I have a new lens to see them through. The second activity for this objective was to hold a focus group of Asian American students on campus and talk with them about what campus activities and resources they would like to see implemented to make them feel more welcome and comfortable on campus. The focus group included three members of APASO, Annemarie, Djanelle, and Jordyn, who are all juniors at APU. They have all attended schools which were very diverse, and schools in which they felt more like the minority. They reflected on the culture shock they felt when attending mostly White campuses and began to realize that regardless of how they identified themselves, other people identified them by their ethnicity and made assumptions based on only that. This includes making comments about Asians being better at academics, all Asians looking alike, and referencing their ethnicity upon first meeting them. Because they do not feel fully understood by their White peers, they turn to APASO to have a safe space to relate to other students who can share in common culture. Jordyn said she would like to have a safe space on campus where students of all different minority groups can talk about their experiences and students of the majority culture can learn how their ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and other things affect them. She acknowledged the fact that there are resource centers for minority groups, like the Multi-Ethnic Programs Office, International Office, and Womens Resource Center, but the problem is there is no participation from the


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majority culture students in those programs. Jordyns keen observation aligns with Johnsons (2006) assertion that social justice cannot be solved unless people who are heterosexual or male or Anglo or White or economically comfortable feel obligated to make the problem of privilege their problem and do something about it (p. 125). All three of them thought the Imago Dei leadership training day at the beginning of the year was a step in the right direction, as it gave students a chance to openly discuss diversity topics with one another and understand both sides of the issues. However, they said that the problem with this event is that it is only one day, and when the event is over, those conversations do not continue. In order to create change, there needs to be an ongoing and consistent dialogue among students about these issues. They also mentioned the fact that Global Week and International Week tend to romanticize foreign cultures, rather than truly educating students about what those cultures look like for everyday people and addressing the issues these people face because they are not understood by the majority culture. Djanelle has noticed that many APU students want to study abroad when they do not even understand the cultures that exist in the U.S. She said that Christians in particular tend to be guilty of only wanting to get to know other cultures so they can help them, rather than trying to truly understand them and see the world through their perspective. McIntosh (1988) addresses this in her article on White privilege; she says whites are taught to think of their lives as morally neutral, normative, and average, and also ideal, so that when we work to benefit others, this is seen as work which will allow them to be more like us (p. 164). I had realized over this past semester that


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philanthropy and missions trips are large parts of the common culture at APU, but I had never considered it from this perspective until Djanelle brought it to my attention. White students cannot fully appreciate what it is like to be a minority if they are continuing to place themselves above others, even if they are trying to help them. When they are able to see themselves as different, but equal to other ethnicities, they will begin to actually see the struggles of the minority races and understand them better as people, rather than as a charity case. What I found interesting about the focus group setting compared to the oneon-one interviews was the fact that they were able to react and affirm each others experiences and input. They would nod their heads and laugh when they could relate to something someone else was saying. This gave me a glimpse into what it is like for them in groups like APASO and with their Asian American friends, where they can have shared experiences with other people and are able to talk about interactions they have with the majority culture. I really enjoyed listening to them talk about their perspectives, and would love the opportunity to do this more with minority students, so I can continue to grow in my awareness of their cultures and their challenges. The final activity for this objective was to discuss feedback from the focus group with the campus activities office for consideration in planning future events. In addition to the focus groups input, I also received some useful feedback from the student and adviser interviews, so I compiled all of this information into a list of some key things for the Office of Communiversity to keep in mind when planning future events in order to make them more diverse and inclusive. Many of the


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students said they would like to see more ethnic foods at events. Some specified their own ethnicitys food, while others wanted to see many different types of ethnic foods so that everyone could experience different cultures together. One of the students I interviewed said that it would be easier for minority students to feel welcome at Communiversity events if they saw more minorities represented in the student leadership in this office. He also felt that it would help minority voices be heard in the planning of campus events if they had representatives in the planning group. Several students said that even if there are resources and events on campus for minority students, if they do not know about them then they cannot take advantage of them. So, finding ways to market specifically to minority groups would help them feel more welcome at campus events and hopefully encourage them to become more involved on campus. Another thing some students would like to see is more collaboration between Communiversity and other offices, such as the MultiEthnic Programs Office, the Womens Resource Center, and the International Office in order for students to learn about campus events through offices and people they are already comfortable with. They would also like to see more collaboration among ethnic organizations to feel more camaraderie as a unified group. The advisers both said that funding is always helpful for ethnic organizations to stay strong and thrive on campus. Many students also would like to have more international and cultural events, but they would like American students to feel welcome at these events and be interested in attending.


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Many of the students and the advisers emphasized the fact that throwing events just for the purpose of diversity or celebrating one culture is not really effective in addressing the issue of segregation among different ethnic groups. The problem cannot be solved just by throwing an event; the change has to happen in the minds of the students who are in the majority culture. This concept sparked some interesting conversation when I shared it with the Communiversity staff. We all had a discussion about the challenge of creating events to make minority students feel welcome without making them feel like the event is a one-time novelty that is meant to check the box on diversity issues. As much as we would like to have events to honor the culture of different student groups, we do not want them to feel like those are the only types of events at which they can feel welcome. Our goal as a campus activities office is to make all students, of all ethnicities, feel welcome to come to all campus events. What I have realized in talking with many minority students is that this may take extra effort on our part to show them that they are welcome and to make them feel comfortable immersing themselves in the campus culture by targeting our marketing specifically to them and bringing in elements that they would enjoy, such as cultural foods or music. We also have to make it a point to help students in the racial majority to understand how to be more open and welcoming to students who may be uncomfortable coming to events. There is not one simple solution to this issue, but I do appreciate the fact that these conversations are happening and that our activities office is open to suggestions and willing to try new things.


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If I was preparing a Stage II for this action plan, I would like to use the tools and knowledge I gained in Stage I to take further action in understanding and serving Asian American students. While I shared a lot of the feedback I received with the Office of Communiversity, I also received a lot of feedback that applied to different offices as well. I would love to have the opportunity to share this feedback with the appropriate offices, which included the International Office, the MultiEthnic Programs Office, the Office of Orientation and Transitions, the Center for Student Action, the Womens Resource Center, and Hospitality Services. I know that feedback from a small number of students that I talked to may not make huge changes on campus, but for those who are willing to listen, it might help them reach more students in a more effective manner, and those small changes would certainly make a difference to students who feel they are living in the margins. Because I enjoyed doing the one-on-one student interviews so much, I would love the opportunity to mentor an Asian American student so I could continue my learning of the Asian American culture and hear from students who experience oppression first-hand how to best support them. Also to broaden my knowledge of Asian American culture, I would like to take an Asian American Ethnic Experience class. I never took the time to take ethnic or diversity courses in my undergraduate experience, but I think those courses could help me to continue to understand minority cultures and how to be a better ally for them. Now knowing how much it means for ethnic organizations to feel validated, I would make it a point to attend ethnic club meetings and other cultural events on campus to make them feel like they are noticed and that they are valued as an integral part of the campus. Finally,


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because I enjoyed this project so much and value the knowledge I gained from it, I would seek to explore other student groups so that my eyes could be opened to their perspectives as well, and so I could gain a better understanding of how to address their unique needs. My experience in completing this action plan showed me ways in which college students, administrators, and student affairs professionals all need to continue to challenge themselves to develop multicultural awareness. This includes examination of knowledge, behaviors and attitudes that currently exist on college campuses. As Pope and Reynolds (1997) address in their article, the growing and complex multicultural dynamics of many institutions necessitate that student affairs professionals not only be prepared to address multicultural issues but also acquire the skills necessary to work effectively with culturally diverse populations (p. 266). This emphasizes the importance of appropriate diversity trainings, but also the necessity for student affairs professionals to take initiative in interacting with students of different ethnicities and cultures to become more comfortable and more proficient in working with a diverse student body. This interaction could help them broaden their understanding of different cultures, but also help them learn how to effectively communicate with and support minority students. In collaboration with university administrators and faculty, student affairs professionals need to develop effective continuing education programs to help students reach the goal of multicultural competence as well. As I found in my feedback from students and faculty, one-time events and discussions cannot solve the issues of oppression and marginalization; the change has to occur in the


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attitudes, beliefs, and values of the majority culture. This process takes time, persistence, and effective ways to allow those conversations to happen for students on a regular basis. Many of us have inaccurate assumptions about other cultures, or a lack of awareness, but those false attitudes and assumptions must be changed before multicultural development can continue (Pope & Reynolds, 1997, p. 270). By having the ability to think outside of our own perspective and acknowledge areas of improvement in our own awareness, knowledge, and skills, student affairs professionals can make great progress in understanding minority students and learning how to better serve them. This project was a great starting point in this area for me, as it opened my eyes to how much I was unaware of, and how much more I still have to learn about students who live in the margins. The development of multicultural awareness, knowledge, and skills is a continuing and unending process that requires learning and relearning, and I am looking forward to continuing to learn and grow in these areas throughout my career in student affairs (Pope & Reynolds, 1997, p. 272).


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Albin, G. & Gohn, L. (2006). Understanding College Student Subpopulations: A Guide for Student Affairs Professionals. NASPA. Broido, E. Davis, T. Evans, N. Reason, R. (2005). Developing Social Justice Allies. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Chang, M. (2002). Racial Dynamics on Campus: What Student Organizations Can Tell Us. About Campus, March-April, 2-8. Johnson, A. (2006). Privilege, Power, and Difference, Second Edition. New York: McGraw Hill. McIntosh, P. (1988). White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. Pope, R. & Reynolds, A. Student Affairs Core Competencies: Integrating Multicultural Awareness, Knowledge, and Skills. Journal of College Student Development, 38 (3), 266-275.