For those entering UC Santa Cruz, finding a community with shared experiences and similar backgrounds can be essential. That’s where UCSC’s Big 5 ethnic organizations come in. They are just a handful of the ethnic and identity organizations on campus that provide safe spaces and atmospheres to ease incoming students’ transition to college life.   

City on a Hill Press talked to student leaders of the Big 5 on breaking into higher education, identity and representation, and how to find the communities right for you. Each organization representative ranked their answers to the questions provided.

Asian and Pacific Islander Student Alliance

Instagram: @apisa.slugs


Jeremiah Joson (He/Him)
Primary Signer for APISA

Why did you decide to join APISA?

I decided to join APISA because it was one of the few spaces where I felt like I was allowed to be myself. I grew up around a lot of different races and ethnicities, so the diversity I saw in APISA was something that was comfortable for me. Without the guidance and support from the APISA leadership during my freshman year, I honestly believe that I wouldn’t have continued my education here at UCSC. Since then, my goal is to pay what they did for me forward and help support members of the AA/PI communities.

Why is it important for APISA to exist at UCSC?

We need APISA to exist at UCSC because there needs to be a space where Pacific Islander students can connect with each other and build community to navigate through higher education. While we serve both Asian American and Pacific Islander students, the demographic statistics between both are vastly different; according to fall 2021 campus demographics, 28.6% of students at UCSC identify as Asian, compared to 0.3% Pacific Islander. Without APISA, our Pacific Islander community would lose a space that can be the difference between getting a degree and dropping out of UCSC altogether.

What advice would you give to underrepresented students entering UCSC?

Some advice I would give to underrepresented students entering UCSC is that it’s going to be intimidating at first, but know that there are spaces on campus that will welcome you with open arms.


Instagram: @bayanihan.ucsc


Note: Co-Editor in Chief Ryan Loyola is one of the three co- chairs for Bayanihan. He did not participate in responding to the questionnaire sent to Bayanihan.

Bayanihan logo

Why did you decide to join Bayanihan? 

I joined Bayanihan because I craved a space where I could connect with other Filipinos. Growing up, I always felt isolated since I was one of four Filipinos in my school. The feeling of loneliness never fully went away during my freshman year, so I decided to join Bayanihan. I auditioned for the a cappella group housed under Bayanihan called Isang Himig, and the rest is history.

Pamela Casipe (She/her)

Fourth-year, Bayanihan Co-chair

Ethan Domingo (He/Him)
Fourth-year, Bayanihan Co-chair

Why is it important for Bayanihan to exist at UCSC?

As stated in our mission statement, one of our main goals as Bayanihan is to “promote unity and empowerment through the awareness of our diverse community.” The Pilipinx community is one of the many underrepresented communities in UCSC, and it is important for Bayanihan to exist in order to foster the different and unique experiences of each of our community members. Bayanihan strives to help our community understand the Pilipinx/Pilipinx- American experience and what it means in the sphere of higher education, while also fostering a safe space where they can feel at home to garner experiences they would not get otherwise in other aspects of their college life. 

What does student leadership mean to you?                        

I believe student leadership is a valuable once-in-a-lifetime experience. After participating in the Bayanihan space for 3 years, I have learned there are many skills that one can gain from student leadership that they would not learn from just academics alone. I will never forget the important life lessons I learned from working with my fellow coordinators along with the everlasting memories I created with them as well. It is now my goal as a current co-chair to create programming within the Bayanihan space that creates these same experiences within the Pilipinx community at UCSC whilst also fostering a new generation of student leadership.

Black Student Union

Instagram: @ucscbsu


X (They/He)

Fifth-year, BSU President

In what ways has being part of BSU affected your relationship with your identity? 

It’s one of BSU’s missions to always support and accept any person, any identity (as we are all unique) and to promote the exploration and growth of folx within the space. BSU cultivates a space to allow Black folx to be unapologetically Black and more importantly, to allow Black folx to be unapologetically themselves. With all of this in mind, BSU was one of the only spaces where I could explore myself, my identities, build community, have those difficult conversations, and grow alongside folx who identify the same way and are having the same questions as I was on our PWI campus. 

Why is it important for BSU to exist at UCSC?

To have a space for Black folx to be unapologetically themselves on a PWI campus is not only utterly important, it’s imperative for us to exist. Historically, there’s never been a Black, AAPI, Philipinx, or [insert ethnic identity here] oriented space on campus. The only spaces that we do have on this campus were either fought for by previous students who put in their blood, sweat, tears, and immense time organizing to fight the university to be given the space for us to exist, or they are the spaces that we create, curate, and cultivate as collective students as a community. With that being said, it is extremely important that we have a space where we can be ourselves, build community (and just with ourselves but with others as well), and to just have a break from the craziness that is the news, classes, life and college life at UCSC.    

What advice would you give to underrepresented students entering UCSC?            

First, take your time to explore the campus and what you are interested in to find your community. It truly doesn’t matter what you are interested in or what you want to do — there are communities and people here who will help you succeed and will support you until you graduate. Second, take advantage of every resource you hear of! A lot of times, there will be on-campus student events, or events in general, where only a couple of people show up and there’s always extra resources (mostly food) that end up going to waste or being saved for later. Thirdly, CHECK YOUR EMAIL!!! I cannot tell you how many times I’ve missed deadlines for scholarships or completely missed events that are happening, or numerous giveaways because I missed an email with all the information needed. Lastly, if you don’t know where to look for information about student orgs or campus resources in general, or just want a cool space to study and hang out, come to the Student Union Building in the Quarry. That building is run by and there for students every week, and they are always there to help!

Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlan


Instagram: @mechadeucsc


Jennifer Abrego Ruiz (She/her)

Fourth-year, Chair of MEChA

What does it mean to you to be a person of color in higher education? 

Being a person of color in higher education means suffering from imposter syndrome. It is unfortunate, but for most of us, it is the reality. Self-doubts or no self-care can lead to lack of purpose and discouragement. Being a person of color, however, also means finding your community, a brave/ safe space where you will experience support and share your most cherished values.

Why is it important for MEChA to exist at UCSC? 

MEChA has historically represented the power of student agency and advocacy. As one of the Big 5 organizations at UC Santa Cruz, its existence is necessary as it provides a place for community and change at this predominantly white institution. Of course, a sense of community is our biggest value, but so is the need to be in solidarity with other spaces seeking to challenge the systems in place. Transformations are possible with MEChA, where la unión hace la fuerza. 

What advice would you give to underrepresented students entering UCSC?

Number one advice is to find a community ASAP. Do not start this rigorous academic journey alone. Of course, you can achieve your aspirations on your own, but there are so many benefits to joining organizations who share your passions. It is when you find your community that you meet fellow slugs who become your second family. Additionally, with such a strong team you get to learn so much from yourself, and you become equipped to deal with adversities that are thrown your way.

Student Alliance of Native American/Indigenous Peoples


Instagram: @sanaiucsc


Ezekiel Salazar (He/Him)

Third-year, Secretary

In what ways has being part of SANAI affected your relationship with your identity?

I definitely feel more connected to my Indigenous identity by being part of SANAI. For most of my education, I’ve always been the only Native kid at my school. If there were others, then I never got to see them so I didn’t have anybody I could relate to. SANAI offers a space for students to come together and not only talk about being Indigenous but celebrate it as well. It’s increased my feeling of connection and confidence with my identity.

Why is it important for SANAI to exist at UCSC? 

It’s important for SANAI to exist at UCSC so that Indigenous students don’t go unrecognized! There’s a struggle with being “invisible” in school and we’re here to make sure that Native students feel seen, heard, and respected. 

What advice would you give to underrepresented students entering UCSC? 

Remind yourself that you are capable! You’ve worked so hard to get here and you’re strong enough to get through every new challenge you face.

In addition to the Big 5, who serve multiple underrepresented communities at UCSC, engaging education (e2) is a great resource to be involved with, as they house the Ch.U.C.K. retention organizations whose main goal is to provide direct support and resources for underrepresented ethnic communities at UCSC:

  • ChALE serves the Chicanx and Latinx community                       
  • UMOJA serves the Afrikan, Black, and Caribbean community               
  • CUSN serves the Asian American/Pacific Islander community                
  • KAMP serves the Filipino/Pilipinx community

Other ethnic organizations on campus include but aren’t limited to:

  • Armenian Students’ Association (ASA)                        
  • Black Womxn’s Alliance
  • Chinese Student Association (CSA)
  • Chinese Students & Scholar Association (CSSA)
  • CentroAmericanos Unidos (CAU)
  • Grupo Folklorico Los Mejicas
  • Hermanas Unidas (HaU)
  • Indian Student Association (ISA)
  • Iranian Student Union
  • Japanese Student Association (JSA)
  • Jewish Student Union
  • Korean American Student Association (KASA) 
  • La Nueva Familia de UCSC
  • Mixed Ethnic and Cultural Student Association (MECSA)
  • Slavic Student Association
  • Sikh Student Association (SSA)
  • Taiwanese Student Association (TSA) 
  • Vietnamese Student Association (VSA)