CU Denver is Colorado's first university recognized for its efforts to enroll, support Asian students

“I feel really empowered,” said a student hired to lead the federally-funded program
Jaslyn Nguyen CU Denver
Posted at 5:35 PM, May 24, 2024

DENVER — For Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students at the University of Colorado Denver, new recognition from the federal government is making the campus a more welcoming place.

“We have multiple perspectives coming into place,” said CU Denver student Jaslyn Nguyen. “We can really support students and showcase how diverse we are."

Nguyen is one of the students hired into a new student-led program funded through a $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

Cu Denver AANAPISI mural
To celebrate its designation as Colorado's first Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution, CU Denver painted this mural celebrating the diversity of its Asian students.

Last year, CU Denver was designated by the federal government as an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution (AANAPISI). It’s the first university in Colorado, and the six-state Rocky Mountain region, to earn the title.

More than 10% of students at CU Denver identify as Asian American or Pacific Islander, compared to less than 6% at other universities across the state, according to the latest data provided to the National Center for Education Statistics.

“This is something that's really unique to us,” Nguyen said. “It's a way to really analyze and assess our student demographic to identify their needs, and then meet those needs.”

Nguyen said CU Denver is the first AANAPISI in the United States to be student-led. She describes it as a relay race, where students will do their part while on campus and then pass the baton to future students when they graduate.

“I feel really empowered,” she said.

In her role, Nguyen helps support students by "identifying gaps within our programming to see why students drop out or why they're not doing well. And then once we identify those root causes, we can come up with resources and solutions to support them,” she said.

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The teams of undergraduate and graduate students are also supported by Duy Tran, who was a student at CU Denver and is now the university’s first AANAPISI director. Tran's already seen a lot of change from when he was a student.

“Definitely more support, a lot more diverse," he said. "Now you see more student resources, more student life activities, more involvement, more student clubs.”

Duy Tran CU Denver
Duy Tran is CU Denver's first director hired to run its AANAPISI programs.

He said in the first year since their designation, he and his student teams have focused on identifying what needs fixing. That process included a survey of more than 200 students who identify as Asian or Pacific Islander.

“After we learn more, where all the gaps and barriers are, we hope to utilize some of this funding, the grants that we have, to really provide and create,” Tran said.

Those opportunities won’t be limited to Asian and Pacific Islander students.

“Our biggest goal was how do we help our students here at CU Denver become more successful," Tran said. "So even though AANAPISI is really designated for a specific demographic... our job and purpose and goal is to find, how do we utilize this and open it up for all students."

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Already, the program is helping students like Nguyen to leave their stamp on the university.

"Personally, I come from a long line of CU Denver alumni,” she said. Her parents graduated from the university in the 1980s and raised their family in Denver. Nguyen’s two older brothers graduated from CU Denver too.

"I've seen just different legacies that each family member has filled," Nguyen said. “I've come here to not only continue theirs but create my own as well.”

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