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Building Capacity at Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISI): Cultivating Leaders and Civic Engagement through Federal Policy


As Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISI) reach and surpass their 10-year milestone, researchers, institutional leaders, and policy makers have drawn considerable attention toward the most recent Minority Serving Institution (MSI). More specifically, AANAPISIs are often called upon to develop and cultivate civically engaged individuals. Despite touting its importance, in today’s era of accountability, policy makers often overlook civic engagement, and primarily award funding/measure the success of an AANAPISI program based upon college completion rates (i.e. performance-based funding). Although college completion is undeniably important, using degree attainment as the solitary metric to evaluate success can be problematic at best. Examining AANAPISI programs through such a narrow scope fails to acknowledge and realize the benefits associated with civic engagement for students, institutions, and society. Thus, the purpose of this study is to examine how civically oriented programs, funded by the federal AANAPISI initiative, build capacity among students, faculty, staff, and administrators.

Through a qualitative two-site case study, at a community college on the West Coast and a regional comprehensive university on the East Coast, findings suggest three main areas that assist in effectively building capacity at AANAPISIs. First there is an alignment of mission and shared values. Second, the AANAPISIs employed a transformative & systematic approach to their work, that incorporates multilayered initiatives from the fields of Asian American Studies, whereby exposing students to the histories and approaches to studying and engaging with AAPIs in their own communities and in the United States. Finally, AANAPISIs were strategic in how they utilized existing campus units to create new programs, which contributes to institutionalization – while navigating pushback and resistance toward their efforts.

Overall, this study demonstrates how AANAPISI program can build capacity by investing in their students, staff, faculty, and administrators through transformative racial justice oriented opportunities and programming. Implications from these findings are useful for several audiences including, but not limited to, policy makers, institutional leaders, and AANAPISI/MSI program staff and faculty.

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