the best colleges and universities for aapi students: oberlin

This month, to kick off the school year, I'm partnering with Asian Pacific Americans for Progress to bring you a very special list of The Best Colleges and Universities for AAPI Students. Over the next two weeks, we'll be profiling the top ten best schools for AAPI student activism (in no particular order). Today's campus is...

Oberlin College
Private Liberal Arts College
Location: Oberlin, Ohio
Founded: 1833
Enrollment: Approximately 2,800 (Including 600 students at the Conservatory)
API population: 7%
Interesting fact: Commencement is held on Tappan Square each year. The backdrop of the ceremonies is the Memorial Arch, which was dedicated to American missionaries who died during the 1900 Boxer Rebellion in China. For years, students have protested the Arch for not recognizing the Chinese deaths in the Rebellion and the fact that the Chinese were fighting Western imperialism. Although the class of 1994 gifted a plaque, which was placed on the Arch to memorialize the Chinese, students to this day continue to "Walk Around the Arch!" at graduation in protest.

"If you look at the history of [victory in] Asian American professor representation, Asian American studies, and whatever else at Oberlin, you will find that every gain has come because students pushed, struggled, and demanded it." - A Nominator

Oberlin is a powerhouse of progressive activism located 40 miles outside of Cleveland despite its small size. The resources here rival those at much larger universities, allowing students to develop their social justice leadership skills, and take action on and off campus.

The Multicultural Resource Center (MRC) has a full time Asian Pacific American Community Coordinator whose job is to help energize, politicize and support AAPI communities. This coordinator works in collaboration with the Africana Community Coordinator, the Latin@ Community Coordinator, the LGBT Community Coordinator to help support student of color communities with the understanding that multi-issue organizing and interdisciplinary community engagement is key to radicalization and politicization. In addition to the MRC, Oberlin provides numerous spaces for students interested in social and political issues to congregate and organize, namely the Center for Women and Transgender People and the Third World Co-Op.

Although Asian American Studies courses are offered through the recently formed Comparative American Studies program, students and alumni continue to actively fight for an Asian American Studies major over the past 40 years. Valuing the importance of Asian American Studies professors and courses, students organized to protest the College’s proposed elimination of a tenured Asian American History faculty position. In addition to saving this position in 2005, they also successfully supported a professor who teaches the Contemporary Asian American Experience class to win tenure.

In service to Asian American student communities in the Midwest, the Asian American Alliance organizes the Biennial Midwest Asian American Student Conference, which is an engaging three-day conference bringing together politically-minded AAPI college students from across the Midwest. The 16th biennial conference will be held in 2010.

Last year, during an off year for the conference, AAPI Obies organized voter registration drives and participated in GOTV efforts helping Obama win Ohio, which was an important swing state in the 2008 Presidential election.

Living their motto "Learn and Labor," the AAPI community at Oberlin definitely proved to the judges that they deserve to be in the top ten! To see the rest of the Best Colleges and Universities for AAPI Students, go here.

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