UMass Boston Earns New $1.3M AANAPISI Grant
University Continues Designation as Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution
“ These efforts exemplify what it means for UMass Boston to be of the city and for the city. ”
The University of Massachusetts Boston has received a new $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to advance its work as an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution (AANAPISI). The five-year grant further strengthens UMass Boston’s capacity as the only AANAPISI-designated research university in New England and one of a handful in the country—a status held by the university since 2008.
“UMass Boston clearly plays a leadership role among AANAPISIs nationally,” said Paul Watanabe, director of the Institute for Asian American Studies and a co-principal investigator for each of the university’s AANAPISI grants. “This designation is important in recognizing the realities facing our high-need Asian American students, many of whom come from local Vietnamese, Chinese, and Cambodian American communities and other growing immigrant populations throughout metro Boston.”
UMass Boston has now received four five-year and four one-year AANAPISI grants totaling nearly $6.8 million since 2010 to develop, pilot, institutionalize, and disseminate a wide range of activities to increase college access, retention, and graduation for low-income, first-generation Asian American students, who comprise 14 percent of the student body.
“These efforts exemplify what it means for UMass Boston to be of the city and for the city,” said Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco. “I am very proud to be the chancellor of our AANAPISI university, working with and for such dedicated faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community partners to deepen these critical commitments.”
The latest AANAPISI award is the product of a sustained partnership among Academic Support Services and Undergraduate Studies, the Institute for Asian American Studies, and the Asian American Studies Program. The aim is to increase the academic performance and retention, persistence and graduation rates of high-need, low-income, first-generation Asian American students; develop capacity of faculty to meet the needs of students; and align the university’s research efforts to contribute to this effort.
“Given the severe economic losses and health and mental health effects from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the racist xenophobia that has especially targeted Asian Americans this year, it’s really important for the campus to engage and support our AANAPISI students and their families, together with other BIPOC and first-generation students,” said Shirley Tang, professor of Asian American Studies and a co-principal investigator of the university’s two current U.S. Department of Education AANAPISI grants, including the recently funded grant which runs from October 2020 to September 2025.
The federally-defined AANAPISI profile in U.S. higher education is comparable to categories of other minority-serving institutions such as Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), and Tribal Colleges & Universities (TCUs). Institutions with AANAPISI designation represent less than 1 percent of all colleges and universities in the U.S., but enroll 20 percent of the nation’s Asian American and Pacific Islander students.
UMass Boston was recognized officially as an AANAPISI in 2008, the first year the designation was available. It is the only funded AANAPISI research university in New England, and one of two in the Northeast region, along with Hunter College in New York. Bunker Hill Community College and Middlesex Community College are the only other funded AANAPISIs in Massachusetts and important collaborators with UMass Boston.
AANAPISI interventions, models, and strategies have contributed to a 28 percent increase in the enrollment of Asian American undergraduate students at UMass Boston since 2010 and a 15 percent increase in the number who annually enter.
The campus’s AANAPISI programming and strong presence at the national level have attracted additional resources to UMass Boston. The APIA Scholars Program, the nation’s largest source of Asian American and Pacific Islander scholarships, for example, has developed a close relationship with UMass Boston leading to the conferral since 2014 of 100 awards to Asian American students totaling $285,400.
UMass Boston’s AANAPISI leadership team includes Joan Becker, former vice-provost for Academic Support Services; Liya Escalera, vice-provost for Academic Support Services; Peter Kiang, director of the Asian American Studies Program; Shirley Tang, professor of Asian American Studies; Paul Watanabe, director of the Institute for Asian American Studies; and Sara Boxell, director of the Asian American Student Success Program.
*The term “Native American Pacific Islander” in the AANAPISI profile refers to indigenous populations of the Pacific Islands such as Chamorro, Samoans, and Tongans within the U.S.