A Fresno State research project aims to assess the impact of various intervention strategies designed to improve retention and graduation rates of Southeast Asian American first-time freshmen. The research will provide timely, relevant information for long-range strategic planning. As a result, students will be more aware of potential benefits and hindrances to their academic achievement.

“I did not have a mentor when I was an undergraduate,” notes graduate student Simara Vongthongdy, who works on campus as a peer navigator. “I’m grateful to have a platform to share my experiences to inspire the younger students.”

The research—designed by Provost Lynnette Zelezny and Dr. Yoshiko Takahashi, associate professor of criminology—stems from an original survey research project conducted by the Fresno State Asian Faculty and Staff Association in 2014. The survey revealed several key findings: Southeast Asian American students are more likely to be low-income, require pre-collegiate skills training, and lack a sense of belonging.

Directed by faculty researchers with diverse academic backgrounds, the research has broad-based support from a volunteer committee of faculty, staff, alumni, graduate students, and local community leaders. The research is funded by the Chancellor’s Office and the Wells Fargo Foundation.

The goal of the project is to identify best practices that can be used as a model for Asian American-, Native American- and Pacific Islander-serving institutions nationwide.

“The project allowed me to see the struggles and the necessary tools to help Southeast Asian students to be successful,” says Tom Thao, student coordinator at the Cross Cultural & Gender Center and a graduate student in multilingual and multicultural education.