We, the interns of the Asian American Resource Center (AARC), would like to discuss the vital role that our leadership, Dr. Kēhaulani Vaughn, ‘Asena Taione-Filihia, and Sarah Lynn Miralles, play in sustaining marginalized communities within and beyond these institutions. This team oversees and advises countless events programmed by AARC Interns to serve 5C Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, pushes the colleges’ administrations to be more inclusive, and supports student leaders in cultivating mentorship programs (SAMP, IPMP, and AAMP).
Within academic institutions, there is very little representation of AAPI identities, and even less of Pacific Islander and Southeast Asian identities. While the experiences and oppressions they face are unique, these identities have historically been categorized under a single umbrella term. In particular, we would like to emphasize the prevalence of Native erasure within elite academic institutions such as the Claremont Colleges. Many people do not realize that the AARC is directed by two Pacific Islander women, Kēhau and Asena, entirely because of this erasure. Their experiences are de-legitimized in many ways: their academic credentials prior to coming to Pomona are dismissed, and their daily lived experiences are not seen as legitimate sources of knowledge. We would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and uplift Kēhau and Asena, their labor, and the love that they bring to spaces that were not made for them, nor their communities, on a daily basis.
Dr. Kēhaulani Vaughn has a Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies with a focus in Indigenous Studies from the University of California, Riverside. Her educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies from Occidental College and graduate degrees from UCLA in Education and Asian American Studies with a concentration in American Indian Studies. Her current research explores Pacific Island Studies, Native American Studies, Indigenous epistemologies, Indigenous education, and decolonial practices and pedagogies. She has taught numerous courses including: Pacific Islander Indigenous Education, Community Studies, Decolonial Education, Race and Ethnicity in the United States, Indigeneity in Hawai’i, Asian American Studies, Native American Studies and Research Methodology. Her passion around higher educational access especially amongst Pacific Islanders and other indigenous communities led her to become a co-founder and current board member of Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC). Working with others in EPIC, she developed and facilitated the EPIC Scholars program, which was a culturally relevant leadership development program that addressed the retention and persistence of Pacific Islander college students.
‘Asena Taione-Filihia received a Masters of Education from UCLA. Her educational background includes an Associate of Arts from Los Angeles Valley College and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from Cal State Northridge. She served as an Outreach Counselor at CSU Fullerton with a focus on development of programs for underserved and first-generation students. She also served on the California State University (CSU) Chancellor’s Initiative on AAPI. In her role as Special Programs Coordinator at UCLA in the Center for Community College Partnerships, she was a co-founder of the first Native and Pacific Islander Summer Intensive Transfer Experience which focuses on the history, contributions and education pathways of Native and Pacific Islander students. Notably, Asena is the only Tongan woman in an administrative position across the Claremont Colleges. The community work ‘Asena has done to expand the Saturday Tongan Education Program (STEP) and build connections with the local Tongan community has enabled STEP to become the program it is today. ‘Asena is the mother to three wonderful children, who attend STEP weekly.
Sarah Lynn Miralles, though not a member of Pacific Islander communities, also plays an integral role in the Asian American Resource Center and the 7C AdBoard. As the 7C AdBoard Coordinator, Sarah works to build community across AAPI students at each of the colleges. Sarah has a Masters of Arts in Ethnic Studies from San Francisco State University, and is currently a lecturer at California State University, Long Beach.
As the student interns of the Asian American Resource Center, under the loving and dedicated leadership of three incredible women of color, we are committed to centering those on the margins of Asian and Pacific Islander communities, including students, staff, faculty, and community members.
We hope that through reading this letter, you are able to reflect on the everyday violence of settler colonialism that non-indigenous people commonly perpetuate. Throughout Claremont and beyond, we hope that you take the time to tangibly support Native communities; we have included several ways to do so below:
- DONATE to Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC)
Co-founded by our very own Dr. Kēhaulani Vaughn!!
- LEARN MORE about the Tongva community, whose land we are hosted on in Claremont
Also, here is a handy map to check whose land you are hosted on wherever you are in the United States: https://native-land.ca/
- SUPPORT the Saturday Tongan Education Program (STEP)
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to volunteer/get involved!
If you would like to learn more about the AARC and the work we do, you can visit us at 160 E. Sixth St, Suite 240 (2nd floor of the Smith Campus Center).