Image courtesy of Carol Dinh.

Student activism was the topic for this week’s #sachat session on Twitter. This is a weekly chat session for student affairs professionals and students interested in the profession. Coincidentally, the event I am facilitating called “The Roots and Identity of the API Community on Campus,” to be held next week, was also announced on Facebook today. The chat and the event reminded me of my student activism days at UCSB back in the 1990s.

Back then, I was deeply involved within the Asian American student community to challenge/work with the administration to improve student services to better serve the needs of Asian American students and the student body in general. Some of the group’s efforts were directed towards making student services more culturally sensitive and for the counseling services experience more accommodating to Asian American students who may have come from cultures and family upbringings where professional counseling was a foreign concept or frowned upon.

Another major effort the students undertook was establishing a physical space for Asian American students to have a place we can call home. After many years of working with the administration, the effort resulted in having a room identified as the “Asian Resource Center,” which led to a building now called Student Resource Building, wherein several student service departments and resource centers for marginalized student populations are located.

One of the most memorable moments as a student was when I called my mom, letting her know I was involved in a student protest. My mom was furious at me for being part of it. She was also scared of what would happen to me. She yelled at me that I would go to jail. Her reactions were because of what we had seen in the Philippines growing up. When we left the Philippines in 1984, it was about the time of the People Power Revolution that deposed Ferdinand Marcos, the President of the Philippines back then. During that time,  we witnessed protests on the street in Baguio City, where I grew up. My parents were never politically active, so I never participated in the protests. My parents were also adamant about me not getting involved because of the fear of being arrested or other consequences.

Looking back, one of the benefits of getting involved with student activism was developing my identity as a Filipino-American. Coupled with Asian American courses, including a Filipino-American Experience course, my involvement within the Asian American community allowed me to learn about Asian American history and develop my racial and cultural identities. Being aware of Asian-Americans’ struggles throughout history, oppressive laws like anti-miscegenation and racial discrimination and segregation practices, and how Filipino-American leaders like Pablo Manlapit, Philip Vera Cruz, and Larry Itliong led movements to fight injustices led me to explore what it meant to be a Filipino-American. I became keener on the portrayals of Asian-Americans in the popular media. I also became more sensitive to micro-aggressions I faced every day. I noticed how I was followed when I entered stores. I noticed how my White hall mates insisted I only got accepted to UCSB because of affirmative action.

While I didn’t know it back then, I was going through an identity development process during my days as a student activist. As Kim’s Asian American Identity Development Theory suggests, I had gone through the following stages, including ethnic awareness, White identification, awakening to social-political consciousness, redirection, and incorporation.

After graduation, I found a job at UCSB; I’m still at UCSB. As a professional, I became a staff advisor to several organizations, including the Filipino-American student organization Kapatirang Pilipino, Pilipino Graduation, and Pilipino Cultural Night (PCN). It’s been interesting to mentor and observe the student leaders and watch them go through the similar identity development process I went through. I hope their experience as student activists will help them find themselves and in their careers as it had done for me.