Alison Dungca ’19 came to Illinois State University looking for an outlet to share her love for her culture. After finding her space to thrive, she took the next step and did exceptional work to help others on campus feel at home.

At Diversity Advocacy’s annual Commitment to Diversity Awards Ceremony this spring, Dungca received the Undergraduate Legacy of Leadership award. The honor recognizes the efforts of a student who has demonstrated progressive leadership, has had a measurable impact on the campus community and has assisted the University in responding to its commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Dungca was born in the Philippines and moved to Vernon Hills when she was a year old. She planned to study early childhood education but switched to communication sciences and disorders after developing a passion for the field.

She initially struggled as a freshman on campus. Asian-Americans are one of the smaller underrepresented groups on campus, and she had to work to find people with whom to connect. That led her to join the Asian Pacific American Coalition (APAC) as a sophomore.

“I always had an interest in social justice, especially as it pertains to feminism and Asian-American issues,” Dungca said. “Finding a space where I could express myself and some of my frustrations, as well as celebrate my culture, was awesome.”

Illinois State student Alison Dungca

Alison Dungca ’19 proudly displays her Legacy of Leadership Undergraduate Award.

Dungca became president of APAC as a senior. As one of its leaders, Dungca sought to broaden the scope of the organization to ensure that all Asian and Asian-Americans would feel welcome, regardless of their cultural background.

“My goal when I joined the executive board of APAC was to grow the organization and have people see more of what we’re like on campus and what Asian-Americans are going through,” Dungca said.

Dungca did this by increasing the group’s presence on campus through events, tabling, and direct outreach to students. Dungca is especially proud of #inspirASIAN Week, which started during her junior year. Held in early April, this year’s event featured a panel discussion with Asian-American faculty about their experiences, a free sampling of Asian cuisine from local restaurants, and a performance by The Filharmonic a capella group.

Diversity Advocacy graduate assistant Miranda James nominated Dungca for the award due to Dungca’s hard work growing APAC.

“I nominated Alison because she has done amazing work for the Asian and Asian-American communities on this campus,” James said. “The work that she did helping APAC reach all Asian identifying individuals and not just one or two countries or cultures is outstanding.”

James also recognized Dungca’s work as an intersectional leader, praising her work with groups on campus that help combat sexual assault, support women, and ally with other people of color.

“For me, being a good ally is reaching out to people and becoming their friends,” Dungca said. “That way we can grow together within Diversity Advocacy to build everyone, not just our own identities.”

Dungca graduated from Illinois State in May. She is headed to San Francisco State University to study speech pathology as a graduate student in the fall. She looks forward to continuing her advocacy on the West Coast.

“Advocacy is something I am super passionate about,” she said. “The passion that I gain from doing this drives everything else I do.

Here are the other Commitment to Diversity Award winners:

  • Legacy of Leadership Graduate: Cyndy Alvarez
  • Outstanding Registered Student Organization Member: Rocky Roque
  • Outstanding Registered Student Organization: Asian Pacific American Coalition
  • Outstanding New Program: TRiO Student Support Services: 1st Generation Powerhouse
  • Outstanding Established Program: Spanish Club: Fiesta Latina
  • Outstanding Staff Member: Tamekia Bailey
  • Outstanding Faculty Member: Marinelly Castillo
  • Outstanding Greek Organization: Alpha Psi Lambda Fraternity
  • Culturally Responsive Campus Community Member: Hannah Mesouani
  • Partner in Diversity: Student Counseling Services

Tyler Emken can be reached at