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Exploring Cultures: Inside UIC’s Asian American Resource and Cultural Center

AARCC staff table with student representatives

The UIC Asian American Resource and Cultural Center (AARCC), inaugurated in spring 2005, stands as a testament to the united effort of students advocating for the needs of Asian Americans at UIC. Operating out of its main office at 723 W. Maxwell Street, AARCC is one of the seven Centers for Cultural Understanding and Social Change (CCUSC). It provides a warm and inclusive atmosphere for students, staff, faculty and alumni as well as a range of facilities and services, including computer access, a lending library and areas for study and relaxation.

AARCC’s mission, vision and values emphasize the center’s dedication to pushing for greater access, equity and inclusion for Asian and Asian American students while promoting their personal and academic achievements within higher education. AARCC aspires to be a national leader in its field by emulating the ideals of community, empowerment, involvement and respect.

The center supports campus organizations through advising and delivers educational workshops and presentations in addition to providing individual consultations on a range of issues pertinent to Asian Americans. The social, cultural and educational initiatives of AARCC seek to deepen awareness of and engagement with Asian American lived experiences while promoting integrated learning opportunities that enrich campus life.

The experiences and stories of the people the center serves are essential to its effectiveness. Amy Vongonh (‘24), a student working at AARCC, shared how the center greatly impacted her college experience, describing it as an encouraging and accommodating environment that facilitates personal growth and provides invaluable advice.

“This community that we built here at AARCC helps solidify what we feel like it means to be Asian American and kind of just relate our experiences together,” Vongonh stated.

This sentiment emphasizes the center’s role not just as an environment for academic support, but as a community where students can find belonging and empowerment.

Programs offered by the center, such as lunchtime talks and their award-winning Asian American Mentor Program (AAMP), allow students to have meaningful conversations and offer them a forum to address difficult subjects and share their experiences. In addition to improving the UIC experience, these initiatives advance knowledge about Asian American identities and concerns on a larger scale. The lunch boxes, in particular, stand out as signature events where food and discussion blend to create an inviting and intellectually stimulating environment.

“Our purpose really is to offer social, cultural and educational programs that promote knowledge on Asian Americans,” confirms Julian Ignacio, associate director for student development and evaluation. “We try to bring in a scholarly perspective and a cultural perspective on the issues that they’re raising…[as well as] provide spaces for students to engage with each other to actually solve these problems.”

Ultimately, the Asian American Resource and Cultural Center is a thriving hub that supports, informs and empowers Asian and Asian American students on campus. AARCC exemplifies community and engagement principles via its extensive services, programs and committed staff members, leaving a lasting impression on those it touches and serves.