MCC Daily Tribune
President's Wednesday Message
About 5% of MCC students are of Asian descent, and they are part of the fastest growing racial group in the US. The number of Asian-Americans in the US grew 45% from 2000 to 2010, yet our shared understanding of Asian students, their cultures, and their support needs has been complicated by stereotypes about these students and our own limited knowledge of what it means to be "Asian."
This month, we have an opportunity to expand our perspective as MCC joins in celebrating Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Heritage Month. As the very name of this heritage month suggests, there is much diversity within Asia: over 1,000 languages are spoken across the 48 countries that comprise this continent. The cultural richness that frames our students' experience is at the heart of this month of recognition and celebration, which also provides us with a chance to reframe our own perceptions about Asian-American students.
Since the 1960s, in discussions about diversity, Asian-Americans have often been cast as the "model minority"--uniform high achieving immigrants who have prospered academically and financially. Dr. Audrey Yamagata-Noji, President of the Board of Directors of Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education, reminds us that Asian-American students are ill-served by this notion and by the higher education trope that they overrun selective four-year universities. Data show that the majority of Asian-American students attend public colleges and that their needs are often overlooked throughout their educational journeys in part because of the stereotype that Asians do well in school. At a recent conference on the needs of Asian-American students, presenters noted that higher education is set up without much attention to their needs, which are far from homogeneous. In particular, students from Southeast Asian backgrounds, who are much more likely to come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and be the first in their families to attend college, face struggles that are made invisible because of the "model minority" stereotype. They are also more likely to attend community colleges.
So, this month, I invite you to celebrate the achievements of Americans of Asian descent who have, themselves, championed diversity. Learn more about the late Congresswoman Patsy Mink, who became the first woman of color to serve in Congress; Pulitzer Prize winner, writer Jhumpa Lahiri; Jacqueline Hong-Ngoc Nguyen, the first Vietnamese-American Federal Court Judge; TED-X fellow and Kickstarter founder Perry Chen; fellow community college leaders like Thuy Thi Nguyen (Foothill College) and Shouan Pan (Seattle Colleges); and so many others. In doing so, let's also reflect on how we can assure that our Asian-American students have the opportunity and support needed to achieve their own dreams of success.
I invite you to share your thoughts on the blog.