New Mexico State University is rolling out an emerging program to better serve and support Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander communities across its campus.

The new program, API Support and Programming, joins the ranks of other diversity programs in NMSU’s Office for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity, following demands from students.

“AAPI students at NMSU recognized the need for community representation, visibility and support, as those specific things did not exist for them,” said Zooey Sophia Pook, director of LGBT+ Programs, who took a lead in developing the new program with a group of graduate students.

“LGBT+ Programs is something I worked to build,” she added, “so it made sense that I would then help to build this program. As a Lebanese American alumni and staff member, I want to feel the same representation and services for our API community.”

Pook said students began pushing for NMSU to better support AAPI communities on campus last spring and received support from NMSU Vice President for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Teresa Maria Linda Scholz to create a new diversity program.

Working with Pook, Scholz and other campus diversity leaders, including Michael Ray, Judith Flores Carmona and Chadrhyn Pedraza, the students built the program from the ground up and began hosting weekly meetings and events by the fall. One event, a screening of the film “Everything Everywhere All at Once” in collaboration with LGBT+ Programs, drew more than 100 attendees.

“We had such a good turnout that some people couldn’t even sit down,” said Kelsey Corro, one of three founding members of the new program and a computer science graduate student.

Pook said Corro and fellow graduate students Sarbajit Basu and Audrey Dijeau led the charge to turn the program into a reality.

Corro, who also works for LGBT+ Programs, said she moved to Las Cruces early during the pandemic and struggled to make friends and find a supportive community before becoming involved with the efforts to create the AAPI program.

“Growing up, I had a lot of Asian American friends, but here I didn’t. So, having a group dedicated to this specific community has been helpful,” she said. “It’s nice to be validated in certain experiences we’ve had. It can be hard for me to talk to my other friends about microaggressions and certain comments made to me because they might not experience them. But when I talk to my fellow API friends, they’re like, yes, I totally know where you’re coming from.”

This semester, the program will move into its own space in Garcia Center, Rooms 133 and 131, formerly occupied by Black Programs. To mark the forthcoming move and introduce the program to the campus community, Pook and the students will host a Lunar New Year-themed celebration from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 25, at Garcia Center.

“We’re at a historical moment,” Pook said. “We’re trying to build a bridge to the AAPI community through faculty, staff and students. Wednesday will be a very important day for us to show what our program will look like.”

Pook said all NMSU students and employees are invited to stop by Garcia Center’s lobby or grassy area, depending on the weather, to learn about the AAPI program, enjoy food from K-Bowl and participate in Lunar New Year activities.

“The opportunity to celebrate the Lunar New Year with the NMSU community is a beautiful way to acknowledge and join AAPI students, staff, faculty and administrators in the celebration of a new year and the beginning of spring,” Scholz said. “I extend a special thank-you to the students who have been diligently working to create a space and place of belonging for AAPI-identified NMSU students. I look forward to joining the community in celebration.”

Corro said she hopes that more staff and faculty will get involved with the program following this week’s celebration. She added that she and other students are focused on creating a safe space with their weekly meetings and a space for AAPI students to be themselves.

The AAPI group meets weekly at 5 p.m. every Monday in the LGBT+ Programs office in Corbett Center Student Union, Room 208. The meetings will move to Garcia Center once the AAPI program moves into its office. The move is expected this semester.

Students will host a second Lunar New Year event – a viewing of Jupiter and the moon – at 7 p.m. Feb. 3 at the Tombaugh Observatory on campus. More information about the event will become available at https://astro.nmsu.edu

For more information and updates, follow nmsu_api on Instagram. For additional information about support, resources and programming, email api_support@nmsu.edu

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