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AAPI NHPI Higher Education Leadership Conference

In January 2023, President Biden established an executive order to coordinate all government agencies to advance equity, justice and opportunity for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. A daylong conference was held on Tuesday at UC Berkeley hosted by the White House. 

The Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Leadership Summit  was standing room only with over 600 leaders and other stakeholders, including seasoned administrators and student members of various campus organizations. 

This large group convened at the request of President Biden and the White House. Vice President Kamala Harris provided a statement that was read at the event, welcoming the attendees and thanking them for committing to supporting the effort for all to thrive. 

AAPI NHPI Higher Ed Leadership Conference UC Berkeley 4.2.2024

The summit provided a panel discussion and offered strategies for advocacy on how to serve this historically underserved population. Breakout sessions at the conference included grant funding strategies for organizations seeking funding for programs. 

Berkeley happens to be the birthplace of the term Asian American, as well as being home to one of the first Asian American studies programs in the country. Policymakers from around the state also attended, including Khydeeja Alam, Executive Director of the California Commission of AAPI NHPI.  

She said, “This is about culture and community and learning from each other. I think it’s so important to bring the right minds together in one place. When you bring the right minds together, we learn from others.”

Alam spoke about the importance of the conference that brought in attendees from around the state and the country. She said, “Convening of the minds is so important, and that’s what’s happening today. We’re so grateful to the White House initiative for bringing us together.” 

Panelists and attendees pose for a group photo

Full house at the first ever White House sponsored AAPI NHPI Higher Education Leadship Conference at UC Berkeley April 2, 2024

One challenge in adequately serving these students has been the demographic data collection for college applications. But now that’s changing, according to the Deputy Director for AAPI NHPI for the White House, Erika Moritsugu. She said, “It’s true. You no longer have to check one box, you can self-identify with multiple races and ethnicities, which I think is an increasingly accurate take of what America looks like. What real America looks like.” 

Bringing together leaders to encourage those in the pipeline of administration in higher education is necessary to address student, faculty and staff needs adequately in the future. 

Moritsugu said, “Just like the campus of learning, we’re learning and connecting, so we’ve brought together the best and the brightest from across the country and across the Pacific, to listen and learn from each other and connect with each other as professionals and caregivers of our next generation.” 

Norman Chen is CEO of the Asian American Foundation. He was thrilled to be at the summit with the various attendees that included students, faculty, staff, policymakers, and university leaders from around the country. He said, “It’s tremendous. One of the first times we’ve ever had our community come together like this.” 

Chen said, since the AAPI hate crimes during the pandemic, he said this is a welcome opportunity for connecting and action, especially when it comes to the future of education and serving students. Chen said, “There’s a huge issue, and we’re looking for solutions. We believe the solution is education, kindergarten through twelfth grade, and throughout higher education. ” 

Alice Wertz is a freelance reporter for KTVU Fox 2 News. She can be reached at  

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