four smiling college students
Story Diversity

Cultural Connections

Alisia Ruble

The CSU recognizes Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Heritage Month.

four smiling college students

Sacramento State's APIDA Fest invites the university community to learn more about and celebrate APIDA culture. (Photo courtesy of Sacramento State/Bibiana Ortiz)


Comprising one of the most diverse student populations in the nation, the California State University encourages students to embrace the rich culture and heritage they bring with them as sources of individuality and strength. This, in turn, helps further the university's mission to prepare all students for a multicultural society and workplace.

CSU has also established programs, initiatives and partnerships with the local community to increase enrollment and retention of students from historically underrepresented backgrounds and help them realize their dream of earning a life-changing degree.

One way the university helps Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) students succeed is through the establishment of dedicated support centers that provide culturally responsive services and support to increase students' sense of belonging.

The CSU also recently established the CSU Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Student Achievement Program. The new program, which will be housed at Sacramento State, seeks to enhance student educational experiences and promote higher education success for underserved and first-generation AANHPI and other underrepresented students. 

And, fourteen campuses are federally designated as Asian American and Native​ American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs), which enables them to apply for grant and funding opportunities that strengthen academic programming and support for students from traditionally underserved communities. About 17 percent of CSU students identify as APIDA, many of whom also identify as first-generation college students.


​​performers doing a dragon dance

​​​​Sacramento​ State's new APIDA Student Center celebrated its grand opening with speeches, tours and entertainment such as dancing dragons. (Photo courtesy of Sacramento State/Bibiana Ortiz)​

​Stingers Up! 

Sacramento State celebrated the grand opening of its APIDA Student Center in February 2023, one of a dozen such campus facilities across the CSU. The center educates and engages with students to foster holistic, academic and personal development to raise cultural awareness and advocacy needs.

“The mission of the APIDA Center is to foster students' academic and personal growth and serve as a hub of campus connections and community resources," says Chao Vang, Ed.D., director of educational equity access and equity strategist at Sacramento State.

The center builds on the tradition of Sacramento State's Full Circle Project and Project HMONG, existing programs that support APIDA students. At the center, students can receive help transitioning to college, referrals for resources on and off campus and referrals to graduate schools, among other services.

Dr. Vang says the center helps advance the university's diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives and provides a place for the exchange of cultures. Staff plan and host events geared towards APIDA students that include a welcome week, a leadership summit and a speaker series as well as outreach events like APIDA Fest that invite the entire university community to learn about and celebrate APIDA culture.

Andrew Yang, who serves as the APIDA Center coordinator and student academic success counselor, says the center also serves as a centralized location for academic and career mentorship, professional development and health and well-being.

“Students tend to feel more comfortable seeking support services when they know there are individuals who come from similar backgrounds as them, especially when it comes to mental health—a taboo subject in all APIDA cultures," Yang says. “One of the unique things we're doing is working with our Student Health & Counseling Services (SHCS) to provide an in-house counselor who will be here every Tuesday."



Sacramento State ​​​​​​APIDA Student Center coordinators were intentional about choosing art for the space that celebrates the diversity of APIDA culture. (Photo courtesy of Sacramento State/Chao Vang, Ed.D.)​

​Laying the Groundwork

“We couldn't have done this without the leadership of [Sacramento State] President Robert Nelsen, Vice President of Student Affairs Ed Mills, Ph.D., and Associate Vice President for Student Retention & Academic Success Marcellene Watson-Derbigny, Ed.D., but really the groundwork was laid by faculty, students and staff," Vang says.

Conversations started about two years ago amongst 20 faculty and staff and an advisory group of about 30 students from different majors and different APIDA groups.

“We performed a student needs assessment to learn what they wanted in the center and discovered the most important things were to have a space to build community and to seek professional and peer-to-peer mentorship," Yang says.

The planning committee also held two round tables to gather feedback on what the surrounding community wanted, because, according to Vang, “while the center mainly serves students, the success of it will also be the support of the community."

More than 300 students, employees and community members attended the grand opening event in February despite pouring rain. And the community is excited for what is to come, Yang says.

“Since the center opened in February, we've received hundreds of phone calls from alumni, community partners and even potential students and parents looking to learn more about the center's work and how to get involved. It's a testament to the commitment of our community who wants to leverage their expertise and resources in support of student success here at Sacramento State."



​​​​Hundreds of students from Sacramento-area high schools and middle schools visited Sacramento State in March for APIDA College Day. (Photo courtesy of Sacramento State/Belen Torres)

​​Being Inclusive 

The term APIDA encompasses people from more than 40 countries who speak multiple languages and dialects and recognize different traditions. Center administrators say they want to amplify and appreciate that diversity and provide culturally responsive services, but they also want to form a united front.

“Helping a first-generation Vietnamese student is very different from helping a fifth-generation Chinese or Korean American student," Vang says. “One of the biggest challenges is understanding the role their cultural identity plays—the intersectionality of being a member of their community as well as a college student."

The APIDA community is the fastest-growing ethnic group in the City of Sacramento and grew 40 percent over the last 10 years to more than 97,000 residents. Center staff say they recognize their role in not only serving current students, but also in building additional capacity for future APIDA students.​ 

The university has also experienced this growth and now enrolls nearly 7,000 students who identify as APIDA. Vang attributes the increase in enrollment, in part, to the university's K-12 outreach and events like APIDA College Day, which happens every spring and has grown to become one of the larger P​​an-Asian outreach events in the Sacramento area. 

The daylong event, designed to promote early awareness of college for APIDA students, attracted about 700 scholars this March, representing six school districts in the Sacramento area. 

Learn more about the CSU's work to support Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) student success and find ways to celebrate APIDA Heritage Month at CSU campuses across the state.

Underrepresented Communities