In January 2021, the W&M Alumni Association launched the Asian American-Pacific Islander-Middle Eastern (APIM) Alumni Leadership Circle. I joined this passionate group of alumni volunteers who meet on a monthly basis to talk about how to best serve alumni in these communities and encourage engagement, leadership and philanthropy.
What could this “group of randos,” whose only commonality appeared to be we all went to the same school, do to improve alumni engagement? Especially when that group of alumni includes a diaspora covering half the globe and included U.S-born alumni, immigrants, and international students? We came together over our desire to build a community where alumni like us could feel welcome. These questions led us to come up with a mission statement: APIM is a collection of alumni who self-identify as Asian, Pacific Islander and/or Middle Eastern/Southwest Asian with incredibly diverse heritages and experiences. Our mission is to honor and explore our diversity to bridge alumni in cultivating a vibrant community where all APIM alumni belong.
Our vision is to ensure that APIM faces and voices are a core component of William and Mary’s present and future identity.
So why APIM? The Office of Alumni Engagement & Inclusion Initiatives advised the decision to put this diverse group of alumni together based on recommendations from the Asian & Middle Eastern Studies Department and geography. Our Leadership Circle includes East Asians, Southeast Asians, South Asians, Southwest Asians, Arab, Persian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander cultures (did I leave anyone out!? I hope not.)
Much of our discussion over the last 18 months has focused on how we make sure everyone is included and welcomed. We want everyone to be represented. My greatest lesson from this experience is that is not one thing can represent all. The key is to create an environment where people can see the possibility of being included, even if a particular ethnicity or religion is not specifically mentioned. We may indeed settle on a new name that reflects both our William & Mary experience and how we will engage alumni going forward.
What is the significance of the year 2021? In 2021, we launched the year-long centennial celebration of the first known Asian student (Pu Kao Chen, 1923) and Asian American student (Art Matsu, 1927) at William & Mary. What better time to launch the conversation on where APIM alumni can lead the university for the next century than by celebrating the first century of our presence?
All our work has been done over Zoom and across time zones. I give a special shoutout to our Leadership Circle members outside the United States for hopping on for Zoom calls in the middle of the night for them when it was 5 p.m. Eastern time for me. While some of us finally got to meet in person at the Asian Centennial gala in April, some of us have yet to meet in person. Perhaps at some future Homecoming & Reunion Weekend, we’ll all see each other (I can dream!).
If you are a fellow alum who sees themselves in APIM, YOU are welcome and wanted. What would you like to see this group do and become? We encourage you to get involved, and there are several ways to connect with us. Contact Ivana Marshall at firstname.lastname@example.org, engage with APIM on the William & Mary Alumni Association website, like our Facebook page or join our Facebook group to be up to date with our events. Let’s make our second century of APIM representation inclusive and equitable.