Leadership Development at the Center of Grant Linking UMass Lowell, Boston

AACEE opening September 2022 Image by Ed Brennen
A member of the Angkor Dance Troupe of Lowell performed a blessing at the August 2022 opening of the UMass Lowell Asian American Center for Excellence and Engagement.


Media Contacts: Emily Gowdey-Backus, director of media relations, and Nancy Cicco, assistant director of media relations
From 2010 to 2020, the Asian American population of the Bay State has nearly doubled. That increase is similarly visible in the student population at UMass Lowell where Asian Americans now make up 14.8% of the student body.
UMass Lowell received a $2.5 million grant to expand the work of its Asian American Center for Excellence and Engagement, a project of the university’s Center for Asian American Studies, in collaboration with UMass Boston’s Institute for Asian American Studies. This builds on UMass Lowell’s $1.5 million 2021 grant to launch AACEE.
Cherry Lim, program director at UMass Lowell’s AACEE, said she relates to the students who frequent the center.
“To be frank, I felt lonely in college … and know the direct impact these grants will have on the student body at UMass Lowell,” said Lim, herself a first-generation Cambodian Chinese American. “I went to a private, four-year college and there weren’t many people who looked like me or had similar experiences.”
As the lead executor of this grant, Lim is excited to know students at UMass Lowell won’t experience the same isolation she did. In fact, the grant goes even further with three distinct goals to:
  • Develop a more detailed, broader image of Asian American students’ experiences in higher education and increase awareness of this demographic on campus
  • Focus on the outcomes of Asian American students by investing in leadership development activities, advocacy and career readiness programming 
  • Increase the number of high-need, low-income Asian American students who enroll at UMass Lowell
Thanks to the grant, Asian American high school students who once couldn’t afford to visit campus can now sign up for an overnight stay.
“For many of these Asian American teens, there are already support systems in place for them to excel at UMass Lowell,” said Lim. “Now, they just have to board the bus for a visit.”
The “centerpiece,” however, Lim explained, is the Asian American Leadership Conference.
“The 2021 grant gave us the opportunity to build a community in Lowell,” said Lim, “the second will help us expand our students’ experiences into Boston. Our hope is that through this conference, Asian American students from UMass Lowell and UMass Boston will get to know one another, share stories and create a stronger bond among fellow Asian American, higher-education students.”
Given the high population of Asian American students on both campuses, Lim felt it was only natural to connect with her colleague Sara Hoang, director of the Asian American Student Success program at UMass Boston.
“This grant represents a crucial collaboration between public research universities rooted in two of the largest Southeast Asian American communities in the Northeast,” said Hoang. “AANAPISI funding will allow our two campuses to implement programming and services to further support the success of Asian American and other first-generation students of color.”