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APASS celebrates 30 years of service

Honored at APASS celebration
From left, APASS director Sumun Pendakur; California State Controller John Chiang, civil rights activist Dale Minami, APASS assistant director Jade Agua and APASS founding firector J.D. Hokoyama (Photo/Priyanka Patel)

Marking its 30th anniversary, Asian Pacific American Student Services (APASS) held a celebration on April 7 at the Ronald Tutor Campus Center Grand Ballroom for more than 200 students, alumni, faculty members and community partners. Founded in 1982 as part of the Division of Student Affairs, APASS provides mentoring, scholastic opportunities and innovative programming.

The “Roots to Branches” event showcased the growth of the department during the last three decades and included guest speeches, a flash mob, a video tribute and a dinner. California State Controller John Chiang, who served as guest speaker, provided certificates of recognition to APASS and Dale Minami ’68, civil rights activist and founder of Minami Tamaki LLP.

“We really had a wonderful time,” said APASS director Sumun Pendakur. “It was a chance for us to capture what’s gone on in our high-energy department. Thirty years in, we’ve continued to transform ourselves, evolve our programs to meet the needs and demands of the students and remain true to the core of our program, which is to serve Asian and Pacific Islander students with a mind toward future expansion.”

Among the attendees who joined the celebration were several founders of the USC Asian Pacific Alumni Association (formerly the Asian Pacific American Support Group), including Kenneth Kasamatsu ’68, Frank Kwan ’71, Karen Wong ’86, Alan Kumamoto and Mary Kurushima.

“Having so many of the people who made APASS what it is today at the event was truly special,” Pendakur said. “They understood that there was a need at USC for this type of outreach to Asian and Pacific Islander students and, because of them, we’ve grown into something great.”

For former APASS member Amy Tran, the evening illustrated the department’s continued commitment toward community building and education.

“When I joined APASS, I really was looking to find a sense of belonging,” Tran said. “It fulfilled that need and so much more. It really opened my eyes to politics and issues on race and class. And even now when you hear the stories from students and the projects they’re working on, nothing’s changed. It’s really an empowering place.”

Lorna Chiu, a psychology and East Asian studies major, is in her first year at USC. After designing the APASS anniversary flyers and pamphlet, she said she was blown away by the department’s history.

“Just going through the old pictures made me realize how lucky I am to be a part of something like APASS,” she said. “I haven’t been here since day one, but 30 years later, I’m thrilled to be a part of it. This is a place that truly brings people together.”

Jonathan Wang, a graduate student getting his master’s degree in postsecondary administration and student affairs, also felt a strong sense of unity at the 30th anniversary celebration.

“I have only been around APASS these last few years, but the minute I entered the room, I felt like I was with family,” Wang said. “This is a family that extends 30 years back, and whether you’re like me or whether you were around in 1982, it’s hard not to feel that way.”

As APASS looks to the future, the 30th anniversary marked what surely will be the first of many celebrations for the department.

“I’d be thrilled if we can look at ourselves in another 10 years and see that we have an even stronger presence on campus,” Pendakur said, “and that we are continuing to help students ask tough questions, think about service in different ways and engage in social justice dialogue.”

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