AsPIre working group provides community, networking for Asian, Pacific Islander faculty and staff

Co-chair of AsPIre Cydney Giroux discusses the group, why she finds it important and plans for the future

Headshot of Cydney Giroux.

AsPIre working group provides community, networking for Asian, Pacific Islander faculty and staff

Co-chair of AsPIre Cydney Giroux discusses the group, why she finds it important and plans for the future

Headshot of Cydney Giroux.

A sense of belonging in the workplace matters. Feelings of belonging include feeling valued, respected and connected to others around you. Those with a high sense of belonging in the workplace have been linked to “a 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in sick days,” according to a Harvard Business Review article, “The Value of Belonging at Work.”

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, also known at the University of Nevada, Reno as Asian Pacific Islander Month (API Month), a nod to the diverse faculty, staff and students we have as part of The Wolf Pack Family. The University celebrates API Month in both April and in May, with many of the main celebration events taking place in April to allow as many people to participate as possible without the interruption of commencement and the beginning of the summer session terms.

To foster a sense of belonging within the Asian, Asian American and Indigenous Pacific Islander community on campus, a working group called AsPIre was established about three years ago as an alliance of Asian, Asian American and Indigenous Pacific Islander (AAPI) faculty and staff members interested in shaping and advancing AAPI initiatives on campus and addressing related issues. The group has many purposes but some of the primary initiatives are to grow a community of Asian, Asian American and Indigenous Pacific Islander faculty and staff through networking, professional development and mentoring, to assist with efforts to recruit and retain diverse faculty and staff, and to mentor and support Asian, Asian American and Indigenous Pacific Islander students.

Cydney Giroux’s journey with the University and diversity initiatives

Cydney Giroux is an academic advisor in the College of Liberal Arts student center and is co-chair of the working group, alongside Meredith Oda.

Originally from a rural community in Northern California, Giroux’s journey to the University began when she was in high school when a friend’s mom suggested she visit the campus. An avid snowboarder, Giroux decided to join the Wolf Pack where she could spend her free time in the mountains. Although she didn’t know anyone when she first moved to Reno, she encouraged some of her friends from California to visit and when they did, they too fell in love with the campus and decided to transfer.

“As an undergrad, I remember appreciating the flexibility to select classes for my international affairs major that I found relevant and most interesting. I also really enjoyed the professors I took classes from,” Giroux said.

Giroux graduated in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in international affairs. For a few years, she worked in various positions and eventually landed at the University Studies Abroad Consortium, USAC, in somewhat of a dream job. 

“I had studied abroad in Costa Rica during undergrad and relished the opportunity to work at USAC full time when the position became available,” Giroux said.

Through that experience, she realized that she wanted to work in higher education and eventually made her way to the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) in 2019, working in her current position. Right before the pandemic she started grad school and pursued a master’s degree in equity and diversity in education.

Giroux was born in Seoul, South Korea and was adopted as a baby and grew up in that rural community in Northern California.

“I was never really exposed to other Asians nor much diversity until I started working in higher education,” Giroux said.

During her master’s program, Giroux really started to explore her identity in all facets and what it meant to her. 

“I feel like everyone has imposter syndrome to some level. I used to feel like I looked Asian but culturally I was kind of white-washed, so I felt like an imposter in spaces for API individuals,” Giroux said.

However, through the program and her experience working in higher education, Giroux discovered that there is a place for everyone, no matter how they identify culturally or what their background is.

The start of AsPIre

Daniel Enrique Pérez was the associate dean of diversity and inclusion in CLA and is an associate professor in the College. Giroux serves on the diversity committee for CLA with Pérez, and one day about three years ago he approached Giroux as he was forming the affinity group for the API community and asked if she would be interested in serving there, too. She accepted.

“It took me until I was an adult to feel like I do belong in these spaces and to overcome imposter syndrome. My master’s program helped me realize that there is space for everyone,” Giroux said.

Initially, the API affinity group was just for CLA but then the group voted and became a University-wide affinity working group. 

AsPIre now and in the future

The past year Meredith Oda and Giroux co-chaired the working group.

“When we started out, we wanted it to primarily be a space for API faculty and staff to network, talk over common issues and get to know each other,” Giroux said. “That remains the main focus but in the last year, we started to get a bit more involved with programming and became more involved with campus events.”

In a panel spearheaded by Grace Leal, members of the AsPIre working group participated in the Northern Nevada Diversity Summit, addressing pressures that API students often face from family and friends. The panel was also invited to speak at Truckee Meadows Community College as part of their API Heritage Month in April.

A group of individuals stands on stage, linking arms and smiling. The PowerPoint presentation behind them reads: "Northern Nevada Diversity Summit 2024. February 22, 2024. 11 a.m. JCSU Theater. Under Pressure: API Wellness and Balancing Family Pressures."
The Diversity Summit API panel. From left to right: Keola Wong, Jennifer Sims, Carla Franich, Ashton Sharp, Cydney Giroux, Rose Ann Gutierrez and Grace Leal.

AsPIre meets monthly and they regularly invite student groups or representatives to join them at their meetings to get to know the faculty and staff involved in AsPIre a bit more for networking and support, and so that the faculty and staff can learn more about the students.

During API Heritage and Culture Month observed on campus in April, AsPIre brought steamed buns and invited students to come talk about issues they face and to share coping mechanisms they use for those issues. They had about 45 students show up and were pleasantly surprised. 

“We had really good conversations,” Giroux said. “Seniors shared things they wish they knew sooner with lowerclassmen. It felt like informal mentorship and it was a nice way to have API representation on campus.”

During April, the group also sponsored a movie night at the Joe showing the film “Joy Ride” and held a discussion afterward. “‘Joy Ride’ has a lot of API representation, which is one of our goals as a working group: to provide more representation on campus and encourage feelings of belonging for the API community,” Giroux said.

AsPIre is an important initiative on campus that helps create community and foster inclusivity. “For me, it’s great to connect with other API staff and faculty on campus,” Giroux said. “There are people from all over – residential life, financial aid … it’s folks I wouldn’t have necessarily met or interacted with except for this group. Now, we all have a sense of belonging and I think AsPIre can help in fostering a sense of belonging and providing representation for our students.”

The group continues to sponsor various activities and initiatives on campus and is looking forward to expanding its outreach efforts.

“We are starting to do more socials and happy hours for the API community beyond the members of the steering committee,” Giroux said. “In the fall we are hoping to do a larger kick-off or welcome event for the semester offering food and friendship.”

Right now, folks can help by connecting the group with donors and spreading the word about AsPIre and their events. Learn more on the AsPIre webpage.

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