SOAR is home to over 100 organizations categorized into Academic, Cultural and Identity, Environmental and Sustainability, General Interest, Greek Letter, Performing/Visual Arts, Political and Advocacy, Professional, Religious and Spiritual, and Service. Starting college is intimidating, but there are many community spaces available for incoming students to join. 

To many, an important part of college is finding spaces where they can find community or lived experiences like their own. City on a Hill Press asked student leaders from various cultural and identity organizations to talk about their plans for the fall quarter.

“What makes Bayanihan to me so special is that no matter where our members might be, there will always be a space for community that we will struggle to care for.”Julius Abad, 2020-21 Bayanihan co-chair

How would you describe your org to incoming students?

Nguyen (VSA): Our goal is to share our rich culture with others as well as spread awareness of issues occurring in Vietnam and Vietnamese communities across the U.S.  We have hosted 13 annual Charity Shows, where proceeds from the event go towards a charity. […] VSA is a safe space where anyone is welcome and is a great chance to meet new people and make friends while also sharing and learning Vietnamese culture.

ISA Board: The Indian Student Association is all about spreading Indian culture and awareness throughout UCSC.

Hart (USI): Underground Scholars Initiative at UC Santa Cruz supports formerly incarcerated and system impacted students in the transition experience, with a focus on recruitment, retention, advocacy and policy. We aim to bridge the popular academic theoretical discourse of mass incarceration with one that is grounded in the lived experiences of UCSC students and students from surrounding communities, building the Prison to University Pipeline.

Abad and Sim at a Bayanihan event winter quarter. Photo courtesy of Michael Sim.

Abad (Bayanihan): [Bayanihan] holds a deep history of the celebration and awareness of Filipino-American culture and history whose roots have been a part of the campus since the 70s. The resilience of the work of the organization through the years of leadership and retention to me is a reflection of Filipinos throughout history. Bayanihan and all its past manifestations to me has always been a recognition of the fact that with a concentration of Filipinos in any given space, community will be built and strengthened through their shared experiences. 

Sim (Bayanihan): There are so many ways for someone to meet all kinds of people and try things they never thought would be for them. […] That’s Bayanihan’s strength: being a community of many unique individuals that work together to promote unity and embrace Filipino culture, all while learning from and having fun alongside each other.

What do you want incoming students to know about how you’re adapting to the remote environment?

Sim (Bayanihan): We’ve been spending the past 2 months really focusing on getting feedback and input from our community members, as well as onboarding and bonding with our core team of over 20 coordinators. I hope that everyone this upcoming school year is able to see and enjoy the newly imagined digital experiences we have planned for the year. 

Nguyen (VSA): This time has been strange and difficult, with most of our lives put on pause. But that shouldn’t stop us from staying connected and keeping in touch with others! […] We want to offer unique ways for members to interact virtually that they could not otherwise experience in person. Our organization is working with Discord to help cultivate a space where members can interact by playing video games, watching videos, listening to music, and chatting with each other outside of weekly meetings.

VSA members at an event earlier this year. Photo courtesy of Kayla Nguyen.
Some of the inaugural students of the UCSC Underground Scholars Initiative chapter. Photo courtesy Missy Hart.

Hart (USI): We are currently building an infrastructure of resources to help support our community in navigating life academically, socially, culturally, spiritually, and financially at UCSC. We also have different opportunities for research, employment, internships, scholarships, and fellowships. Lastly, we are working on events to promote bonding and bridging among the USI community and our allies. Exciting collaborations are in the works to bring a series of events to UCSC to share knowledge, bring awareness, and to celebrate our culture.

ISA Board: We are adapting to the new situation of the current pandemic and our fall quarter being all remote by introducing our org via an online general body meeting, and also having bi-weekly meetings on Zoom where members of our org can connect with each other as well as our leadership. The aim of these meetings is to be a fun way to have new students meet new people as they start their journey at UCSC, give them a sense of what ISA is, and what we do.

ISA members at an event earlier this year. Photo courtesy of the ISA Board.

A full list of cultural and identity organizations can be found on the SOAR website.

All quotes were given via email.