Working with Higher Education Institutions Serving Asian American and Pacific Islanders

In his State of the Union address earlier this year, President Obama outlined the Administration’s plan to strengthen the middle class by equipping every American with the skills to secure the jobs of a new economy. To grow our middle class, our citizens must have access to the education and training that today’s jobs require.

At the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI), this means investing in educational opportunities that provide the fastest growing racial group – Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) – with the chance to access and to succeed in post-secondary education.

Through Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs), our community can achieve these goals. AANAPISIs provide culturally sensitive and relevant curricula, environments that encourage students to develop a sense of identity and self-worth, and invest in students with need.

On March 27, 2013, AANAPISIs from across the country gathered in Washington D.C. for the Higher Education Programs Project Directors Meeting. This gathering provided the opportunity to brief program directors about WHIAAPI’s educational priorities, including plans to increase federal investments to AANAPISIs by providing greater access to resources like grant opportunities; funds to increase staff, faculty, and programming resources; best practices; and federal internships for students.

The briefing also gave AANAPISIs the chance to share their ideas with WHIAAPI. Several schools noted they are 2-year institutions that award associate degrees and other professional and technical certifications. The challenge, they added, lies not in securing a large research grant designed for a 4-year institution, but finding resources to support English language learners or adult vocational education.

The briefing also included a presentation by Fatima Pashei, Program Analyst in the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity at the Department of Energy. Fatima spoke about some of the unique resources at the Department that support AANAPISIs. She shared information about federal grants awarded to AANAPISIs and encouraged the schools to think creatively about finding similar opportunities amid scarce resources.

We look forward to continuing to work with AANAPISIs to better serve the educational needs of the AAPI community.

Phil Olaya is a Policy Advisor for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

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