Stella Wang, international admissions coordinator and recruiter with UofL’s International Student and Scholar Services, saw an opportunity to expand the scope of UofL’s Employee Resource Groups after moving to Louisville and joining the Cardinal family in February.
“When I was onboarded by the Employee Success Center, I noticed these things called ERGs,” Wang said. “I saw that we had the Black Faculty/Staff Association and a group for the Latinx community. As I’m Asian myself, I took note that there wasn’t an ERG for our community.”
UofL’s Employee Resource Groups emerged in response to the “great place to work” initiative outlined in the 2019-2022 Strategic Plan [PDF]. These voluntary, employee-led groups provide regular meetings, events and networking opportunities for faculty and staff members with common interests, backgrounds or identities. ERGs have been established to foster strong connections and networks of support, while also serving to address feelings of isolation among university employees from minority or underrepresented backgrounds.
Wang acknowledged early on that the Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander community would benefit from additional university resources, but she didn’t take action immediately. That changed following the March 2021 spa shootings in Atlanta, which are being prosecuted as anti-Asian hate crimes, as well as a national spike in hate crimes against the AAPI community. According to the FBI, hate crimes targeting people of Asian descent in the U.S. rose by 70% last year versus 2019.
“The first few months passed, and I hadn’t taken any action. Then we had the shooting in Atlanta where Asian women and women of Asian descent were targeted. That was a turbulent and traumatizing time, to say the least. At that moment, I didn’t feel there was an AAPI organization at UofL to make a statement or to say that we are here for each other as members of this community,” Wang said.
This led to the establishment of UofL’s new Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander ERG. In immediate response to the Atlanta shooting, Wang assisted in organizing two town hall events. These town halls provided both AAPI and non-AAPI members of the university community with an opportunity to come together and express pain and grief associated with the tragic events in Atlanta. Over the summer, the AAPI ERG also offered several virtual coffee chats, as well as an in-person meet-and-greet for interested university employees.
“Student-wise, we talk about retention, recruitment, sense of belonging and the importance of seeing folks that look like you. This is just as true for employees, so we want to talk about the diversifying of faculty and staff, as well as the retention efforts for AAPI employees.” Wang said.
UofL is home to an expansive AAPI community with more than 1,200 students and 750 employees self-identifying as of fall 2021. Moving forward, this ERG aims to champion action and change, promote diversity and provide a strong sense of community, visibility and belonging for AAPI employees. The AAPI ERG is open to all faculty and staff identifying as AAPI, and non-AAPI employees interested in supporting diversity and equity within the UofL community are also welcome to join.
“Overall, I think that this is contributing to our anti-racism agenda. We don’t always see visibility, representation or initiatives behind the AAPI community. Advancing racial diversity and equity is our goal, and we’d be missing an important opportunity if we failed to improve our resources and include our AAPI employees in the conversation of anti-racism,” Wang said.
Faculty and staff members interested in learning more about the AAPI ERG are encouraged to contact Stella Wang. For additional ERG information and a complete list of all UofL Employee Resource Groups, please visit the Employee Success Center’s ERG webpage.