Sam Kim, assistant vice chancellor for student community, grew up in Southern California during the acquittal of four police officers who beat Rodney King and the racial uprising that ensued. As a young Korean American immigrant, Kim recalls feeling for the first time the brunt of a broken justice system.
“Korean Americans were targeted by the system—the system that couldn’t give Rodney King justice,” said Kim, EdD. “However, I believe the conflict I experienced at school and on a day-to-day basis has prepared me to help students, faculty, and staff today.”
Kim has devoted his career in higher education to advance the success of traditionally underrepresented students, especially students that identify with Asian culture and history. He joined CU Denver 11 years ago as the director of Asian American Student Services and has since led several student-facing departments, including Lynx Central, TRIO Student Support Services, and Student Life. In addition to his current role as assistant vice chancellor, Kim is serving as the lead for CU Denver’s AANAPISI (Asian American Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution) Operational Team, charged with addressing systemic issues that have hindered the campus’ ability to be an inclusive and welcoming place for all, with a focus on AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) students, faculty, and staff. Currently, 11% of CU Denver’s students identify as AAPI, which means CU Denver meets one of several federal criteria for an AANAPISI of above 10% AAPI student population. The university expects to earn the official federal designation in the near future.
The group’s work, along with that of the HSI Operational Team, exemplifies the university’s commitment to goal 1 of the 2030 Strategic Plan, becoming the nation’s first equity-serving institution. “A critically vital way we are going to achieve goal 1 is if we invest the time, money, and resources into the HSI and AANAPISI initiatives,” said Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Antonio Farias. “Those are the main engines that are going to drive this equity-serving institution down the road.”
Operational Team Will Focus on Three Key Areas
Formed in October 2021, the six-member AANAPISI Operational Team, made up of students, faculty, staff, and community members, have been diligently working to address three key areas during their first year. According to the team’s official charge, those areas include but are not limited to:
- Support AAPI students by identifying proven practices and implementing programs that provide students with increased access to high-impact opportunities such as internships, research, and study abroad
- Support AAPI faculty and staff by reviewing institutional policies and procedures to identify barriers to the recruitment, hiring, onboarding, supervision, and promotion of AAPI faculty and staff
- Support campus by exploring how to acknowledge, research, and identify the history of the AAPI community at CU Denver city and in Colorado in a manner that aligns and furthers our education mission
Each team member has been assigned to a goal and tasked with collecting data, research, and information. The team expects to present recommendations to Farias and the Equity Serving Institution Committee in late March and begin the implementation phase this summer.
A Platform to Ignite Change
For Kim, CU Denver’s diverse makeup and past student success initiatives have always represented a framework for an equity-serving institution. He’s excited to serve on a platform dedicated to advancing goal 1 by building on what currently exists and has the support of CU Denver leadership—which, he pointed out, is the most diverse Cabinet he’s seen since he started at the university. “To see the investment coming from the highest level, from the Chancellor down, is huge,” Kim said. “CU Denver is saying, we are going to hold our people accountable … To open the pathway for the voices of students who have traditionally been overlooked by education is huge, and it is really going to resonate with our campus community.”
Meet the Members
- Sam Kim: Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Community
- Faye Caronan: Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
- Soyon Bueno: AASS Director, Office for DEI and Center for Identity and Inclusion
- Yang Wang: Assistant Professor of Art History, Department of Visual Arts, College of Arts & Media
- Donna Than (current student member): President of Asian Student Association
- Annie Vu (past student member): Chair of Student Fee Review Committee and member of Student Government Association (Fall 2021)
- Annie VanDan: President of Asian Avenue Magazine, Change Consultant at Change Matrix
- Facilitator: Sarah Buller: Director of Organizational Effectiveness and Engagement, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Administration & Finance
- Grant writer: Terry Hughes: Executive Director, National Veterans’ Training Institute
- Administrative Assistant: Miguel Morris: Executive Assistant, Office for DEI
- Executive Champion: Antonio Farias, Vice Chancellor for DEI