This month, we pause to recognize Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, celebrating the students, faculty, and staff who enrich our university and community through their meaningful contributions. Expanded from a weeklong celebration in 1978 to a monthlong observation in 1990, AAPI is commemorated in May because it marks two important moments in history: the immigration of the first people from Japan to the United States on May 7, 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, a feat accomplished through the hard labor of many Chinese immigrants.
I’d like to commend the UNLV Oral History Research Center, Claytee White and her team, for supporting and spearheading “Reflections: The Las Vegas Asian American & Pacific Islander Oral History Project.” I have no doubt the stories captured will inform and inspire all of us, and I am so proud to see our university conducting such important activities with a broad positive impact.
UNLV is designated as an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution (AANAPISI), with more than 16 percent of our students identifying as Asian American, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander. While we are very proud these students chose UNLV to further their educational goals, our dedication to serving our students is about far more than earning a federal designation. Our commitment is about more than a national diversity ranking. We are striving to foster an environment where we dismantle and remove obstacles for every student’s success and provide tailored support services so that all students can realize their full potential.
This university lies within an urban community, and the challenges that affect it affect us all. Last year, the State of Nevada declared racism a public health crisis exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. From the time COVID-19 cases began being reported in the U.S. in March 2020 until March 2021, there were more than 6,600 acts of violence, harassment, and discrimination tracked by the Stop Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Hate reporting center. This is deeply concerning and terrifying for many of our students, faculty, staff, and their families.
Recognizing the vital role of this university, UNLV Libraries and the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs spearheaded a program to foster open dialogue and collaboratively formulate solutions to address systemic racism. Titled “We Need To Talk,” the video series features local experts and UNLV researchers who have delved into topics from economics and education to health care and more.
I have truly been impressed by the candid conversations and insights this series has yielded from educators, experts, activists, elected officials, and artists. I’m equally impressed by the passion they have for improving the lives of all residents in our diverse Southern Nevada communities.
Next week, “We Need to Talk” will focus on anti-Asian hate. I hope you will join the virtual conversation, which begins at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 27. The more we learn, the greater chance each of us will be a key part to dismantling systemic racism, protecting each other, and ultimately creating a more equitable and inclusive university and community.