Raymond Lu is a first-generation Chinese-Vietnamese American whose parents taught him the value of education and inspired him to “do and be better.”
“I was always surrounded by Asians and never took the time to examine what it truly means to be Asian American in all its privileges and struggles. Learning and reexamining my identity was an eye-opening experience while at Cal State Fullerton,” said Lu, who graduated last month with a master’s degree in education-higher education.
As a graduate student, Lu was involved in a range of activities, programs and advocacy on campus. He was active at the Asian Pacific American Resource Center, where he connected with his cultural identity and helped plan and coordinate events for fellow students. As part of his graduate program, he helped lead the planning of the Maywood Education Fair to encourage the city’s underrepresented students to go to college.
In recognition of excellence in service, Lu is this year’s recipient of the Alumni Association’s Outstanding Graduate Student Award. Nate Nguyen, cooordinator of the Diversity Initiatives and Resource Centers, nominated Lu for the award, noting that his dedication to serving Titans and community partners demonstrates his commitment to being an educational leader.
“Receiving this award is a huge honor,” said Lu, who works at the university’s Center for Educational Partnerships and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from UCLA.
Why did you become involved on campus and at the center?
During my undergraduate education, I sat in lecture halls with 300 people, where the professors never knew my name. I never took the time to explore my intersecting identities and what it meant to be Asian American. At the center, I saw the celebratory, cultural and empowering events that they put on, and I knew I wanted to be involved. I remember when I first walked into the center, I heard Chinese music playing and saw other students who looked like me playing mahjong (a Chinese tile-based game) on the floor. I instantly felt at home. Not only did the center create that community, it inspired me to conduct all of my research projects on the Asian American student population.
Why is it important for you to give back?
I found a sense of belonging and a sense of identity at CSUF and I will always be grateful to those who helped me along the way. It is absolutely vital to reflect on the experiences that got you to where you are. It is also important for me to stay connected because the Titan community is my community. The rewards come from seeing the ideas like the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Heritage Month celebration come to fruition after months of planning.
What is a highlight of your college experience?
I had the opportunity to present my research at the NASPA Western Regional Conference in Portland, Oregon. At the conference, I also performed a spoken word piece that highlights the inequities of higher education and incorporates my own upbringing, cultural identity and narrative.
What was most rewarding about the education fair?
I believe that education opens doors to opportunity and social mobility. However, education is not always equitable in terms of who can obtain or afford it. The Maywood Education Fair taught me that institutional and systemic change is possible. Through the collective efforts of my classmates, campus partners and community members, we created a college-going culture in the city that can be quantitatively measured, and that idea itself, has encouraged me to continue doing this kind of equity work.
What’s next after graduation?
My career goal is beyond any job title. I want to be in a position of influence and power to create institutional change to help and support marginalized student populations and disenfranchised communities. With the movement for justice that is happening across the country and around the world right now, and as a proponent of inclusion and equity in education, I want to encourage others to utilize their privilege, platform and influence to post, share, donate, call your districts, vote, have those difficult conversations, protest and advocate wherever and whenever you can. I stand with the #blacklivesmatter movement and on the side of justice with our black and allied Titans.
Contact: Debra Cano Ramos, firstname.lastname@example.org