In Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Higher Education, Doris Ching and Amefil Agbayani have amassed and edited a mixture of theory, research, history, best practices, and inspirational stories that clearly show the need for additional discussion, research, and review regarding Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students, faculty, staff, and administration. They begin by showing that statistically AAPI students are the fastest growing sub-population in the country. However, little is known about this population due to misconceptions and myths created by the dominant White population. Even the term “Asian American and Pacific Islander” does not clearly differentiate the more than 48 ethnic groups, cultures, and languages/dialects including: Bangledishi, Bhutanese, Burmese, Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Hmong, Indian, Indo Chinese, Iwo Jiman, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Malaysian, Maldivian, Nepalese, Okinawan, Pakistani, Singaporean, Sri Lankan, Taiwanese, Thai, and Vietnamese. This does not even include the Pacific Islander categories of Carolinian, Chamorro, Chuukese, Fijian, Guamanian, I-Kiribati, Kosraean, Mariana Islander, Marshallese, Native Hawaiian, Ni-Vanuatu, Palauan, Papua New Guinean, Pohnpeian, Saipanese, Samoan, Solomon Islander, Tahitian, Tokelauan, Tongan, Yapese, Polynesian, Micronesian, and Melanesian.
Ching and Agbayani discuss how AAPIs are segregated from both the White and Colored cultures by being presented as less than White, but better than the African-American and Latino/a populations, which the editors believe have been consistently presented as being lower socioeconomically, as well as underprepared educationally. This has been accomplished through misconceptions and myths about AAPIs and their abilities to succeed in school and in the workplace without the support given to other minorities. However, through statistics and research, Ching and Agbayani provide a picture of the overall subclass of AAPI that proves that these misconceptions are outdated and racist. Students that classify themselves as AAPI are not always educationally prepared or focused on STEM fields as popular stereotyping would have us believe. Yet, due to these stereotypes, it is mistakenly assumed that support for these students and professionals are not necessary, because they will be successful anyway.
Additionally, Chang and Agbayani discuss the importance of increasing and supporting AAPI leadership within the university. Having an active AAPI leadership not only provides an passionate group of advocates for AAPI students but also readily available mentors who can relate to the experiences and issues with which AAPI students are being faced. In order to increase these leadership positions, understanding of the differences between Western and AAPI cultures must be fostered. These cultural differences frequently lead to misunderstanding of the leadership potential in AAPI employees and their ability to be successful in leadership positions.
In the final section of the book Chang and Agbayani provide suggestions for how to alleviate the growing issue of providing support for AAPIs, both students and professionals, within the university setting. These suggestions include increasing AAPIs in leadership positions through understanding of cultural differences and norms, leadership training, and mentoring. These AAPI leaders would then be able to also advocate for AAPI rights for both students and other professionals as well as become mentors and advisors to AAPI students within the institution. Finally, and most important, Chang and Agbayani (2012) challenge university administrators, faculty, and staff to become familiar with the issues that AAPI students are faced with in today’s society. Through this understanding, new doors to and within their institution will be opened for these students, and ultimately they will be encouraged to be successful both during college as well as after graduation.
I found this book to be extremely informative on the history of AAPI students and organizations, as well as issues facing these students today. In fact, I was slightly appalled to realize how much there was to know on a subject I had never put much thought into before now. Ultimately, as much as I enjoyed the vignettes and interview statements from AAPI professionals and students, I would have liked more practical knowledge on how professionals are effecting change within institutions similar to my own. Although I realize that there is no one solution to the issues that are facing AAPI students and professionals, I feel that specific examples regarding programming and policies that have been effective elsewhere would help to stimulate new and creative ideas and initiatives. Obviously there is much more research that can and should be done in this area and I hope that people will take this book seriously and start to analyze how changes can be made within their own institutions so that they can become practitioner-allies for all Asian American and Pacific Islanders.
Trillah Culver, is currently working in Student Judicial Affairs at the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Higher Education. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org