Alumni reflects on his time at CSUMB

Peter Xiong’s journey at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) has come completely full-circle. Xiong was a student coordinator during his time as a student and he now works with the Otter Cross Cultural Center (OC3) as a program coordinator.

“Program coordinators kind of exist to support student coordinators in implementing their ideas and allowing them to interpret their own position,” explained Xiong.

The work that comes out of the OC3 is based on intersectionality, said Xiong.

“Not just culture and ethnicity, but also gender, race and social class. As you kind of go down the line of social identities, we’re really doing the work of social justice,” he explained.

Xiong is currently working on getting an MFA in creative writing from San Francisco State University, and he is also currently working on his first novel.

As a student, Xiong concentrated his Hcom studies on American multicultural studies. He explained “that was when [his] activism began.” As a proud member of the Hmong community, Xiong is passionate about promoting social justice.

Through different mediums such as visual, photography and mostly writing, Xiong often asks himself “what does it mean to be an activist? What are the responsibilities?” His time with the OC3 has helped him start to unravel the answers to these complex questions.

Xiong said that through signature events such as the Social Justice Colloquium and stole ceremonies, the OC3 is able to “honor our heritage and our background and the work that’s come before us” by activists of previous generations.

Xiong credits the mentorships he had as a student as a huge reason for his passion for social justice. Through his work, Xiong wants to honor the “staff and professionals at the time who were willing to invest in my journey.”

He said that while he still has growth to do, “their willingness to kind of  put me on the journey of learning history about myself, activism, social justice, cultural change and social movements” inspired him to do the hard work that is required to call oneself an “activist.”

“There’s not enough we can do to reward folks for their emotional and physical labor they put into developing the growth of students,” shared Xiong.

“As a student, I had a lot to say to improve the life of what it meant to be a student here. There were so many parts of my identity and parts of my friends’ experiences that just needed improvement,” he said.

For this reason, Xiong is immensely proud of the OC3’s affinity graduation program, which provides students from underrepresented communities with more targeted and inclusive graduation ceremonies.

“It began with Latinx and Chicanx students who  were organizing to put up their own graduation committees, and then eventually the Black Student Union was able to support their committee to put on their own graduation. And then APIA, which is the Asian Pacific Islanders Association, kind of got together and started to form a community to do the APIA ceremony.” 

These ceremonies ultimately were created by students “who want to celebrate more of their journey and their identities” in their commencement ceremonies, according to Xiong.

While he has only been back on campus for a few months, Xiong says that he feels “a sense of responsibility to sustain the work that folks might be leaving behind” once they graduate or retire.

When he graduated from CSUMB in 2017, Xiong said that the one thing he wasn’t able to prepare himself for was “the day after [graduation] and leaving campus… I think that the day after commencement is truly the day where everyone’s journey begins,” he explained.  

Xiong advised that while “there’s a lot of stress and push to have something set up after graduation. If you do, great. If you don’t, that’s also fine.”

He said that the best step to take after graduating from university is “honestly, whatever it takes kind of keep yourself going, whether it’s therapy or going on a vacation and traveling or you know, even just giving yourself time to sleep.

“Be gentle with yourself through that process,” said Xiong. “Give yourself grace and honor your time.”

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