The LMU community came together on April 28, 2023, for the annual Asian Pacific Islander (API) Graduation held in Featherston Life Sciences Building Auditorium followed by a reception in the Hannon Courtyard. Eighty graduates joined this LMU tradition to celebrate and recognize the academic and personal achievements of our Asian Pacific Islander-identifying undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students. Watch the video replay here.
The celebration was hosted by Asian Pacific Student Services (APSS) along with Alumni Engagement and the Asian American Pacific Islander Faculty and Staff Association (AAPIFSA) members. This year’s API Graduation encompassed the theme “Wheresoever You Go, Go with All Your Heart.” Senior Vice President Kawanna Leggett, Ed.D., and Provost Thomas Poon, Ph.D., joined the celebration to offer congratulations to all the API graduates. The event was bookended with performances from two API registered student organizations: an opening performance from Isang Bansa, known as “Tinikling,” a traditional Philippine folk dance; the ceremony concluded with a dance performance to K-pop music from Seoultang.
Two student speakers highlighted their journey to graduation from both the doctoral candidate and undergraduate perspectives. The first was the keynote speaker, Andrew Murphy, a doctoral candidate in education from the LMU School of Education, who is a leader in education, government, and policy. In previous roles he’s served a public-school teacher, community organizer, union leader, nonprofit executive director, and policy deputy for the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, where he was the primary author of the “Everyone Counts” resolution, a civil rights achievement that instituted data disaggregation policies for all students and employees of color in the nation’s second-largest school district. As an an elected California Democratic Party Assembly District Delegate, Murphy currently serves as the president of the Asian Democrats of L.A. County and as a board member of the Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley and the Korean American Democratic Committee.
“Embracing this identity, remembering where you came from and who you are, is what I’ve found will help you have mercy on yourself when you feel the weight of the whole world on your shoulders,” said Murphy. “Today, you have achieved something spectacular — an accomplishment that can never be taken away from you; you are graduating. As you celebrate yourself and get ready for your next chapter, I hope you do go with all your heart, a heart full of mercy.”
The second student speaker, Faith Nishimura, a marketing major with a double minor in Asian Pacific American Studies and Asian and Pacific Studies from Claremont, California, gave the senior charge during the event. As an active member of the API community on campus, Nishimura has served on both Han Tao and Nikkei Student Union executive boards. She has advanced her passion for cross-racial solidarity and ethnic community preservation by working with Nikkei Progressives, Sawtelle Japantown Association, and Little Tokyo Historical Society. In 2022, she was honored to be a 2022 Nisei Week Princess, representing Southern California Japanese Americans and volunteering at community functions. Besides her marketing and API activities, Nishimura is an Alpha Kappa Psi member, Beta Gamma Sigma Business Honor Society member, and former LMU Debate Team Captain.
“All of us are here today because of our way-makers, or people who have made way to create opportunities for others. It’s clear that our identities and experiences have been influenced by the work of those before us,” said Nishimura. “These way-makers gave us direction when we were all still trying to figure out who we were and what our place was in our communities. With this better sense of self, we can navigate and explore life ahead more confidently. “Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart” as a way-maker: find and create opportunities, community, and connection with compassion. And as you clear a path forward for yourself and others, remember to thank the people thus far who have made way for you.”
The event also featured alumni speaker Hayden Tanabe ’18, who earned a bachelor’s degree in management. While at LMU, Tanabe volunteered with Magis service organization, served as the president for the Residence Hall Association and ASLMU president during his senior year. Currently, he works as a manager in consulting at Ernst & Young, where he helps organizations, their leaders, and employees navigate large-scale change. He also stays involved with LMU as chair of the Brand Ambassador Program with Marketing, Communications, and External Relations and as an alumni mentor in the Management Department.
“You see me standing here today, so to my surprise, the world didn’t end when I moved off the bluff,” said Tanabe. “In fact, in my five years since graduation, I’ve experienced several other big life transitions, all of which have been championed by my LMU community. See, one of the biggest things I’ve learned is that life is full of change, and your LMU community will be one constant that you can always depend on … I’m here to remind you that this is just the beginning of many transitions, transitions that your LMU community will always be there for — and that starts now.”
During the event, Curtiss Takada Rooks, Ph.D., who is currently in Japan on an academic fellowship assignment, shared a video message to honor and celebrate LMU’s Tomodachi Inouye scholars. The Tomodachi Inouye Scholars program is a joint Academic and Student Affairs international leadership program recognizes emergent scholars engaging in leadership that bridges LMU’s diverse population through action. During the program the Tomodachi scholars projects included working with the AAPI student organization leadership to create solidarity with the other BIPOC student communities, to filmmaking providing “voice” to those of multiracial or mixed-race ancestry, to creating and implementing the first Asian American Symposium that elevated the most invisible within our AAPI communities and the intersections between AAPI and Black communities, to developing digital spaces for those at the margins, the Edge Dancers, to share their life experiences. Congrats to the 2023 Tomodachi Inouye Scholars:
- Natalie Christensen
- Julia Pacias
- Teagan So
- Zoe Canon
APSS also honored its registered student organization leaders who serve on e-boards of LMU’s API student organizations with a special cord. The student leaders honored were:
- Midhann Ahuja
- Adam Esclamado
- Joseph Kula
- Allen Lam
- Leah Mizuno
- Tin Nguyen
- Faith Nishimura
- Claire Shin
- Megan So
- Teagan So
API Graduation is one of the cultural celebrations to enhance Ethnic and Intercultural Service’s mission to support the intercultural learning and development of students, specifically those from historically underrepresented backgrounds and support the personal and academic success of students focused on identity development, community building, and advocacy.