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Asian Pacific American Cultural Center celebrates 40 years of advocacy

The+outside+of+the+Asian+Pacific+American+Cultural+Center+in+the+Lory+Student+Center+April+10.+The+organization+is+celebrating+its+40th+anniversary+this+year.
Collegian | Lauren Mascardo
The outside of the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center in the Lory Student Center April 10. The organization is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

Editor’s Note: Read the Spanish version of this article here.

This year, Colorado State University’s Asian Pacific American Cultural Center is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Since 1984, APACC has been a beacon of support for Asian Pacific American students, staff and allies on campus.

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“APACC has allowed me to find other people who have similar identities as I do, and it has helped me find a supportive community on campus that I can call home,” said Grace Kirk, APACC’s large events coordinator.

APACC’s support is not just limited to Asian and Pacific American students. The organization has recently been working to support and represent other identities and cultures. 

“We are really trying to work on more visibility for the Southwest Asian (and) North African communities of students who often feel their voices aren’t heard or seen,” said JoAnn Cornell, director of APACC.

In 2023, members of APACC founded a new organization known as the South West Asian North African Student Organization to serve that community at CSU.  

“We’re trying to raise visibility for our communities so that the community knows we’re here. We’re trying to be very visible and be seen and heard more, so the 40th (anniversary) is a huge milestone for us.” -JoAnn Cornell, Asian Pacific American Cultural Center director

“One of APACC’s most significant achievements on campus is being able to expand our reaches to the SWANA student population on campus,” Kirk said. “We were able to get April acknowledged as the official SWANA heritage month, which was an incredible experience to be a part of.” 

In order to foster diversity and inclusion at CSU, APACC puts on multiple events throughout the school year to represent and celebrate all cultures throughout Asia, which are typically underrepresented on campus. 

From inviting keynote speakers to hosting luaus, APACC has expanded the events it hosts and remained dedicated to serving all Asian students at CSU. 

“Throughout my time, (APACC has) definitely increased programming and reached a far wider audience that I’ve noticed,” said Reham Abdunabi, SWANA president. “The best part is helping coordinate events, the positive reactions that we get from everyone (and) getting to see the community come and learn.”

Over the years, APACC has collaborated with multiple centers and departments around campus. A few of APACC’s most significant collaborations include bringing Linda Sarsour and Masih Alinejad as keynote speakers and their yearly All Nations Leadership Retreat with the Native American Cultural Center.

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“We try and do a lot within and across offices because we know that we can’t do this alone,” Cornell said. “It takes a village and community to do this together.”

Throughout APACC’s history, student staff members have proven to be valuable when it comes to planning events for the community.

I would really love to see APACC be able to expand our departments and student staff capabilities,” Kirk said. “Students are what make APACC what it is, and so many of our student staff have come up with amazing ideas for reaching new students through events and marketing.”

Over the last four decades, APACC has created a space for students to connect with each other and talk to people who can understand what they’re going through or even just provide a space for people to learn about other cultures.

“My experience as someone who’s underrepresented is a lot better; they have a sense of understanding about the things that I’m going through,” Abdunabi said. “I know they’ll support me in any way that I need, and they connect me to many resources.” 

Although the organization has been successfully serving the CSU community for many years, there is still work to be done.

One of APACC’s most significant goals is to analyze data on which communities may be less likely to continue higher education so the university can better serve their needs.

“One of the things that we have been working on since 2013-14 is the need for disaggregated data because our community is so large,” Cornell said. “There are some communities that are probably more at risk of not continuing in higher ed, and we don’t necessarily know who they are.”

To celebrate its 40th anniversary and all the cultures APACC represents, the center is hosting a luau April 20 in the Lory Student Center Grand Ballroom. For more information on APACC’s anniversary celebration and other events, visit the APACC website.  

“We’re trying to raise visibility for our communities so that the community knows we’re here,” Cornell said. “We’re trying to be very visible and be seen and heard more, so the 40th (anniversary) is a huge milestone for us.” 

Reach Laila Shekarchian at life@collegian.com or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.

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