Story Student Success

Supporting Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Students

Christianne Smith

APIDA students are finding support on campus as anti-Asian hate incidents surge in their communities.


​​​​​​CSU campuses have developed programs to support the health and wellness of Asian Pacific Islander Desi American​​ (APIDA) students.

The U.S. Department of Education granted three CSU campuses – Fresno, Long Beach and Sacramento – a total of $4.7 million to expand their capacity to serve APIDA and low-income students. The grant comes during an alarming rise in xenophobia and anti-Asian hate crimes, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In addition to the hate incidents and discrimination, the APIDA community is also facing a rise in hospitalization and death rates, business closures, unemployment and mental health challenges during the global pandemic," says Barbara Kim, Ph.D., professor, chair and advisor in the Department of Asian and Asian American Studies at Cal State Long Beach.

“The pandemic has revealed existing vulnerabilities and disparities in our communities, including for APIDAs."

Using grant funding, campuses will provide APIDA​ students the resources they need to feel safe and protected, while helping them reach their full potential.

Project Resilience – Cal State Long Beach

CSULB launched Project Resilience​ in spring 2022 to strengthen academic outcomes of and social support for APIDA students.

“While APIDAs are among the largest group of first-generation and low-income students, their challenges are often unheard because this group is often characterized as a 'model minority' who are academically successful high achievers," explains Dr. Kim.

Project Resilience will amplify APIDA voices as faculty, staff and students collaborate to provide academic, wellness and mental health support. Students will have opportunities to explore APIDA histories and identities, gain coping skills and access culturally-informed mental health support resources, explore career pathways and professional development programs​​, and engage with APIDA community organizations.

Full Circle Project – Sacramento State

Sacramento State's Full Circle Project (FCP) works to retain and graduate APIDA and low-income students through peer support, community engagement and a heightened sense of belonging. Grant funding will allow it to extend their services to incoming community college students.

FCP will partner with six local community colleges to better prepare APIDA students for transfer and success at Sacramento State.

“APIDA transfer students have a low two-year graduation rate relative to the rest of our campus," says Timothy P. Fong, Ph.D., director and principal investigator of the Full Circle Project. “FCP helps students build a strong community on campus that increases their chances of graduating."

Increasing APIDA Representation in Criminology – Fresno State

Fresno State is working to increase the number of APIDA professionals in the field of criminology.

Adequate APIDA representation in the criminal justice system is necessary for community members to step up and help resolve crime issues. However, many APIDA victims are reluctant to speak out or seek help from the police because of their cultural constraints.

“Crime victims prefer to have a victim advocate who shares a similar background and speaks their language," says Yoshiko Takahashi, Ph.D., interim associate dean in the College of Social Sciences and professor of criminology. “When APIDA communities see that there are criminal justice professionals who understand their cultural challenges, they should feel much more protected and supported."

Fresno State's Department of Criminology will implement programs to better support APIDA students from entry to graduation. Students will be offered peer mentoring, work-based learning experiences and a cultural competency certificate.

In addition, the department will conduct outreach in APIDA​ communities to inform parents and potential students about the field of criminology and their career options.

The CSU educates the most ethnically, economically and academically diverse student body in the nation, with 16 percent of the university's 422,000 undergraduate students being Asian American or Native American Pacific Islander. Fourteen CSU campuses​ are designated Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISI), allowing the campuses to compete for federal and private grants that will strengthen their efforts to assist underserved communities.