Exploring Beyond the Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution (AANAPISI) Designation: The Perceived Impacts of a Federal Grant on Understanding and Serving Students at a Two-Year AANAPISI
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Exploring Beyond the Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution (AANAPISI) Designation: The Perceived Impacts of a Federal Grant on Understanding and Serving Students at a Two-Year AANAPISI


In higher education, with the change in demographics and the growing diversity of the minority student population, one of the key concerns is the inequitable educational outcomes for historically underserved and underrepresented minority students (Bensimon, 2005). Over the next few decades, minority students will make up a large and significant portion of the U.S. workforce and considering the weak conditions of our nation’s economy, increasing the educational attainment and thus, ensuring the educational success of racial/ethnic minority students should be our nation’s priority (Nguyen et al., 2017; Teranishi, Su�rez-Orozco, and Su�rez-Orozco, 2011).

Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) are important sites for understanding the kinds of institutional context that help build institutional capacity to better serve diverse racial/ethnic minority student groups; MSIs enroll over 3.5 million racial/ethnic minority students (Cunningham, Park, & Engle, 2014). The Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution (AANAPISI) designation and funding not only recognize a critical mass of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) enrolled at an institution, but also allow student initiatives that focus on serving AAPI and low-income individuals to develop. In addition, AANAPISIs (also known as AAPI-serving institutions) can highlight racial/ethnic heterogeneity and disparities in educational outcomes that exist across AAPI ethnic sub-groups. (Nguyen et al., 2017; Teranishi, 2010).

Espinoza (2012) discussed the difficulties that low-income and racial/ethnic minority students face in addition to the challenges compounded by the intersections of their multiple backgrounds. However, despite students’ diverse backgrounds and their challenges, the concepts of reimagining transformation such as developing pivotal moments (Espinoza, 2012) help to examine and reimagine change with the aim to better understand and serve students. Centering around the conceptual framework of reimagining transformation which evolved from concepts including transformational change (Kezar, 2013; Bensimon, 2005) and educational pivotal moments (Espinoza, 2012), this study aimed to answer the broader question: In what ways, if any, does the federal AANAPISI funding drive new, broader, and deeper insights into understanding and serving students at a federally designated and funded AAPI-serving institution?

To answer this question, the study examined changes that the AANAPISI federal grant brought regarding the following areas: 1) the unique educational needs and challenge of AAPI students, 2) serving students from diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds at an AAPI-serving institution, and 3) serving students after the grant ends (e.g., sustaining and expanding the current and future AANAPISI or AANAPISI-like student initiatives on campus). All in all, the federal AANAPISI funding beyond the designation alone supported an institution to build capacity and demonstrate its commitment to better understanding and serving students from diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds. Therefore, the federal AANAPISI funding served as a catalyst to help reimagine change at an institution and develop pivotal moments (Espinoza, 2012) to be more “minority-serving.” The findings provide implications for new areas of research, institutions that either are a Minority-Serving Institution (MSI) or are pursuing a federal MSI designation and funding, and public policy to improve the educational experiences of students, particularly racial/ethnic minorities, in higher education.

A decade has passed since AANAPISI became the newest addition to the federal MSI program in 2007. While little is still known about AAPI-serving institutions (CARE, 2014), this study contributes to the understandings of the federal MSI initiatives with particular attention to AAPI students and what that means for serving beyond AAPI students. Ultimately, these understandings add to the knowledge of institutions that serve students from diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds.As higher education continues to strive toward achieving educational equity, we must constantly ask, “what does it mean to be a ‘minority-serving’ institution?” I believe this study has taken a step closer to answering this question.

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