I feel like I'm coming full circle.
It has been nearly a year since I, as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed new doctoral student, attended my first Nevada System of Higher Education’s (NSHE) Southern Nevada Diversity Summit. The speakers and workshops left me feeling inspired and moved. I remember coming across the Summit announcement and immediately signing up for it in excitement.
Fast forward to 2020, when the Summit will be hosted by the College of Southern Nevada (CSN) on Oct. 2. I will co-facilitate a session titled “Exploring 'Servingness' in Dual Designated Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) in Southern Nevada.”
Embodying the 2020 Diversity Summit theme, "Knowledge to Action," my colleague Luis Ortega, a college counselor at CSN and fellow UNLV doctoral student, and I hope to help attendees further their knowledge and lead more equitable action on our campuses related to being Minority-Serving Institution. In Spring 2020, we both took EDH 714: Understanding MSIs, a graduate seminar led by Professor Blanca Rincón of the UNLV Department of Educational Psychology and Higher Education. The course readings and assignments spun the wheels in our brains. Dr. Rincón pushed (and continues to push) my own thinking around MSIs.
Luis and I chose this topic because we still continually come across campus community members who know little about what these designations entail, let alone that UNLV, Nevada State College, and CSN are all duly designated. Moreover, there are no U.S. Department of Education directive models or guidelines on how to “serve” as an AANAPISI or HSI.
We will cover details about the history and eligibility criteria of the designations, share institutional demographic data, and build from existing research to offer conceptualizations around what it means to be “serving” students, especially Asian Pacific Islander Desi American and Latinx students, through informed policy and practice.
Presenting at this year's Southern Nevada Diversity Summit while also being appointed to serve on the newly created UNLV MSI Student Council feels like both a true alignment of the stars and a deep responsibility. With my research interests in race-conscious higher education initiatives and policies, especially MSIs, it is important to me to read, research, write, and be an accomplice in this work — just as the Summit’s goal is to “call us to action to make changes in our daily thoughts and behaviors that affect our area of influence and beyond.”
In addition to increasing the visibility of the MSI, HSI, and AANAPISI identities, it is equally important to understand the historical context, charge, and challenge these imply for our Southern Nevada institutions. With knowledge comes power, and an impetus to act.