The Asian Pacific American Coalition (APAC) at Illinois State University provides a space of inclusion and belonging for students.

APAC public relations and marketing co-chair Janelle Sison said members play games, learn about Asian-American culture, and educate themselves on relevant topics. 

“Not only do we aim to promote and enrich diversity on campus, we stimulate a sense of shamelessness of our culture in our members,” Sison said. 

Sison said APAC recently held a socially distanced ramen noodle event where members picked up ingredients and brought them home to cook with over a Zoom call. 

“This way, we can still safely see members face-to-face, and we’re all able to participate in the activity at the event over Zoom,” Sison said.

The group also started a website, produced a podcast, and developed merchandise for members to proudly own items with the APAC name.

“APAC is a family,” Sison said. “Personally, it was where I found a sense of belonging from being surrounded by people who have had similar experiences of being Asian American.”

Under its “A-Packs” mentor and mentee program, new members can become mentees who are paired with a mentor that provides support, bonding, and guidance within APAC and in general college life.

“Someone who attends our meeting is surrounded by people who have been through similar struggles. At our meetings, they are able to express themselves and essentially relieve themselves of the anxiety that they may be feeling from these struggles,” Sison said. 

APAC encourages members to find their voice and share their needs with the club. Members fill out routine surveys to evaluate their experiences and suggest new events. 

“We have fun together, and it’s a well needed break from the mess that is college,” Sison said. 

In November, APAC hosted an Adoptee Month event featuring psychotherapist, adoption specialist, and author of Parenting in the Eye of the Storm Katie Naftzger.

The event provided a space for Asian-American adoptees and all APAC members to learn about the Asian-American adoptee experience and what challenges individuals might face.

APAC chose to highlight this topic to increase awareness, find similarities among all members’ experiences, and learn how to use the information moving forward.

“Since we’re always educating ourselves, we’re furthering our knowledge and spreading awareness of various topics to those who attend,” Sison said. 

Sison said she enjoys APAC’s annual trip to the FACT (Filipino Americans Coming Together) conference in Urbana, IL. 

“Asian organizations across the Midwest attend, so we’re able to connect and meet so many new people. I’ve met people there who I still keep in contact with a year later,” Sison said. 

According to Sison, it’s evident that members enjoy their time at APAC meetings and events. 

“When I first came to Illinois State, I struggled to find a place where I felt I belonged until I went to APAC,” Sison said.

Sison said several other members shared similar feelings.

“I’ve met some of my closest friends from APAC. I’m so grateful to have these amazing people in my life right now,” Sison said.