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Q&A: Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month

Meet Justin Samuel, member of the Asian/Asian American Faculty/Staff Association
Justin Samuel AAPI Month

Since 2014, Justin Samuel, assistant dean for student affairs at the College of Pharmacy, has been a member of the Asian/Asian American Faculty/Staff Association (AAAFSA). A proud UT Austin alumnus (B.S., College of Natural Sciences, ‘10/Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Policy, ’19) he is passionate about making the campus a more inclusive and welcoming place for his colleagues and students. Read on to learn more about his research, his involvement in the AAAFSA, and how his work is inspired by his own life experiences as the son of immigrants from India.

What inspired you to focus your doctoral research on Asian American students in higher education?

There is a lack of research related to Asian American college students and their sense of belonging at American universities. I wanted to write that story because I was one of those students. I produce my research for the future. It’s not really to uncover the past. I’m less of a historian and more so someone who wants to create and pave the path for future generations. My hope is that my research leads not only practitioners at UT but also administrators at other universities to say, ‘Hey, we should produce a cultural center or different activities or programs for Asian American populations so that they feel like they belong here.’

What are the benefits of being a member of the AAAFSA?

I love the AAAFSA for a multitude of reasons, one of which is the ability to go to a space on campus and be with like-minded people from similar backgrounds. Number two is the ability to network across the campus with people who I would be less likely to collaborate with otherwise. Number three, I really enjoy the professional development. Lastly, I like going to AAAFSA events because of the food! They always serve a different type of Asian cuisine, and I love going and getting the lunches that they serve every month.

How has AAAFSA helped you feel more connected to the university? 

While working at a very large institution, we’re often in silos. It is very easy to come to work, show up in your office, interact with the few people around you and then go home. So, AAAFSA helped me break down those barriers and really understand that there are people who exist in all parts of the university who may be going through some similar struggles. It’s helpful to have the space to vent about your concerns. One beautiful thing is that we’re a community-based culture. Whenever we’re sick, struggling or in crisis, we often reach out to family members first, and AAAFSA provides that home away from home.

What does AAPI month mean to you?

AAPI month is an opportunity to pause, reflect and celebrate the great contributions that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made to this country. We’ve definitely made our mark and, as a son of immigrants from India, I’m very proud of the sacrifices that my parents have made in order for my sister and me to leave our legacy and contribute to American society.

More About the AAAFSA

The Asian/ Asian American Faculty and Staff Association work to support and empower Asian faculty and staff. They host monthly meetings and events that encourage personal and professional development as well as community outreach/partnerships. Visit their website to learn more about how to get involved and to access a wealth of community and campus resources.