This January, American University’s Alumni Board welcomed four new members. Among them was Don Mike Mendoza, SOC/BA ’10, SOC/MA ’17, who has been working or volunteering for the university since he graduated in 2010.
Don Mike says that, as one of the first Asian-American individuals to join the board in multiple years, he hopes to use the platform to bring issues to light that might otherwise go unacknowledged.
“At the beginning of the pandemic when we were talking about discrimination against Asian people because of COVID-19, you didn't see much action on it in terms of our board, specifically because there wasn’t a voice to bring it up,” Don Mike says.
In March, after the Atlanta spa shootings, Don Mike worked with AUAB and the Asian Pacific Islander Alumni Network (APIAN) to release a statement with action items to support students, faculty, and staff. He felt that emphasizing education, advocacy, and action in the statement to the alumni community was especially important in order to avoid being performative.
Even before joining the AUAB, Don Mike had a long history of working to make Asian voices heard on campus.
He first joined the APIAN in 2016 as the group’s event organizer and became its chair in 2019 before joining the Alumni Board this year.
As APIAN chair, Don Mike spent a lot of time working to expand the API-identifying alumni community at AU through active outreach and events. He also turned his focus inward to strengthen the group’s connections with current students. Don Mike says that when he first graduated from AU, he didn’t even know an affinity group for him existed, and he’s been working to change that ever since.
“I think we felt and still do feel that API overlooked in the conversation about people of color and minorities on the campus because it solely focuses on people that identify as Black or LatinX,” Don Mike says. “We wanted to make sure that Asian and Pacific Islanders were also acknowledged by growing the group’s active members to include more of the domestic and international student population.”
Don Mike also worked for AU’s communications and marketing department after graduating with his undergraduate degree, remaining an AU employee and taking graduate courses on weekends until 2017.
Now, Don Mike is an independent marketing consultant and a producer of events, concerts, theater programs, and more, where he works to increase Asian representation in the entertainment industry.
“It’s important to make sure that entertainment is telling accurate stories and representing people the way they are and not in a stereotypical way,” he says.
Moving forward, Don Mike hopes to soon join the alumni board in person for the first time but says that since he lives in Pittsburgh now, he also will look for virtual volunteering opportunities.
“I am lucky to say that I had an extremely positive experience as a student, as a staff member, and now as an alum...and I really hope that I can continue helping out and serving, whether it be in my role now as an Alumni Board member or in the future as just an alum who lives outside of DC,” Don Mike says.