Editor's Note: This story previously had used an incorrect acronym for IMPAACT; this story has been updated. The Daily regrets this error.
Feelings of displacement can bare heavy on marginalized communities, especially those that are traditionally overlooked, the Asian American and Pacific Islander Faculty and Staff Association hopes to ease these feelings of displacement for faculty and staff members at Iowa State.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Faculty and Staff Association (AAPI FSA) was created in 2015 by Som Mongtin, an Iowa State alumna who also served as a staff member for the university for a number of years. Mongtin and her colleagues created this organization in an attempt to build a community for those faculty and staff members at Iowa State who identify as Asian American or Pacific Islander. Although Mongtin has left Iowa State, the organization is still active and lives on in her name.
A co-chair for the organization and scholarly publishing services librarian, Harrison W. Inefuku, said this group was created at Iowa State for faculty and staff specifically because, “There are student groups available to support Asian American and Pacific Islander students, but traditionally there hasn’t been a lot of groups to support marginalized faculty and staff on campus.”
This organization is faculty and staff centered in order to benefit those members who may feel out of place in their department, or at Iowa State as a whole due to lack of diversity. AAPI FSA is the only faculty and staff association on campus for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, yet they are not as known as they’d like to be. AAPI FSA has faculty and staff members on campus all the way from the education department to the powerplant, but they still hope to continue to gain more new members and create more interaction and engagement. AAPI FSA also hopes to be recognized by other internal and external organizations to Iowa State as a viable campus resource.
“I think especially in places like Iowa, or campuses like Iowa State, it’s hard to find people who look like you or share your culture," Inefuku said. "Especially in some departments people will be the only Asian faculty or staff in their area.”
Inefuku also said that it is not a requirement to be of Asian or Pacific Islander descent to join AAPI FSA, they are also welcoming to allies and/or anyone willing to help.
"We do also engage in advocacy to improve conditions for marginalized communities on campus, and a lot of those efforts we’ll do in conjunction with other faculty and staff associations on campus," Inefuku said.
Rachel Seale, events and social networking chair for AAPI FSA and outreach archivist, said being a part of AAPI FSA has given her a sense of comfort and belonging at a predominantly white institution (PWI) like Iowa State. Seale attempts to spread this comfort and sense of community to other members of the organization or those looking to join through networking.
“In terms of networking we do monthly lunches to try to get everyone who’s available to meet, get to know each other," Seale said. "We do socials at the beginning of the semester and the end of the semester."
These socials include welcome socials, group member mixers, lunches, book clubs and outings such as going to the movies — usually to see Asian films — or attending and helping with Ames Public Library story time. AAPI FSA also seeks any opportunity to partner with or promote other groups and organizations — on campus or externally — with similar goals and efforts as them.
“If there are relevant lectures on campus, we might not be the ones who put it together but we’ll promote it," Seale said. "This past semester one of our co-chairs had seen that an external organization— the Monsoon Asian and Pacific Islanders in Solidarity — did a winter wear drive […] so we did one on campus.”
This winter wear drive benefited many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who had recently moved to Iowa but were unprepared for the harsh winters. Seale added AAPI FSA tries to be as helpful to their community as possible and support locally whenever they can, whether it be a winter wear drive or something as simple as visiting traditional Asian and Pacific Islander restaurants.
“Even though our membership is faculty and staff, we’ve done things to support students on campus,” Inefuku said. “Especially with a lot of former leadership involved in student affairs — we helped students put on IMPAACT.”
ISU Making Progress for the Asian American Community Today, or IMPAACT, is an organization at Iowa State with a vision to, “encompass many backgrounds and skills at Iowa State University and tackle real-world challenges,” according to their website.
Their website also stated their goals are to, “introduce students to today's leading edge ideas and technology, and allow them to apply what they have learned in the classroom in order to make it tomorrow's technology.”
IMPAACT also hopes to expand and collaborate with other universities throughout the world. This organization was especially important to AAPI FSA as it was an event created specifically for Asian American and Pacific Islander students.
“Especially on campuses, Asian Americans get overlooked in terms of not being recognized as a minority or being seen as a model minority,” Inefuku said.
According to The Atlantic, a model minority is a member of a marginalized group, “whose hard work, initiative, personal responsibility, and success offer proof that American meritocracy works as intended.”
Inefuku explained that IMPAACT is so important to AAPI FSA because in terms of diversity and inclusion on many campuses, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are often left out or forgotten, whether that be in terms of faculty and staff or students, and this organization recognizes and validates Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders as a minoritized group.
IMPAACT aimed to do with Asian American and Pacific Islander students what AAPI FSA aims to do with Asian American and Pacific Islander faculty and staff: help them figure out, ‘what’s our role in this?,’ as Inefuku said, in terms of oppression and marginalization both at a PWI and in society as a whole.
Seale and Inefuku both said they’d like to see more interaction within their organization internally and externally. Their website can be found by searching Asian American and Pacific Islander Faculty and Staff Association through Iowa State’s Diversity and Inclusion website, or by searching Iowa State Asian American and Pacific Islander FSA.