Oakton Employee Receives American College Personnel Association (ACPA) Promising Practice in Social Justice Award

(L-R): JoHyun “Jo” Kim, ACPA Commission for Two-Year Colleges chair; Jan Goldman, ACPA Commission for Two-Year Colleges directorate board member; Dear Aunaetitrakul; and Cameron Carrara, ACPA Commission for Two-Year Colleges directorate board member and Oakton College academic advisor; at the ACPA Convention in Chicago, March 19.

Des Plaines, Ill. (March 28, 2024) - A national student success organization recently honored an Oakton employee for her work championing equity for Asian American Pacific Islander students.

Dear Aunaetitrakul received the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) Commission for Two-Year Colleges (C2YC) Promising Practice in Social Justice Award at the ACPA Convention in Chicago, March 19. Aunaetitrakul leads Oakton’s Center for Organizing Minority Programs to Advance Student Success (COMPASS), providing holistic support for AAPI students. Oakton established the COMPASS program with support from the U.S. Department of Education’s Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution (AANAPISI) grant.

The ACPA presents the Promising Practice in Social Justice Award to a person or program at a two-year college that develops and implements a program or practice inclusive of a historically underrepresented group, promotes equity on their campus, or encourages thoughtful contemplation of social justice.

"The award was a surprise to me,” said Aunaetitrakul. “I want to thank the College and COMPASS team for their support. The recognition from the ACPA C2YC reaffirms my commitment to uplifting our district’s AAPI community."

The ACPA recognized Aunaetitrakul for her tireless efforts and outstanding leadership in amplifying the voices of AAPI students and connecting them to scholarships, academic advising and other support. Oakton was the first community college in Illinois to attain the AANAPISI designation in 2020, securing federal funding to enhance higher education access and quality for Asian American Pacific Islander students. The grant also supports faculty and staff professional development opportunities, high school partnerships and Code Elevate, a summer coding program for high school girls of color.

Since taking on her position in 2021, Aunaetitrakul has actively partnered with various campus organizations to champion the unique needs of the AAPI community. Throughout her tenure, these initiatives have successfully distributed more than 15 scholarships to economically disadvantaged AAPI students, led to a 25% increase in the enrollment of AAPI women in computer science courses, and delivered training sessions to over 370 faculty focusing on enhancing pedagogical approaches.

In addition, Aunaetitrakul examined the “model minority” stereotype, which characterizes the nation’s Asian population as high-achieving economically and educationally, and spotlighted key points in the U.S. Asian American History that often get overlooked. She writes, produces and hosts the “AAPIs at Oakton” podcast, which features subject matter experts and Oakton students. In addition, she has been instrumental in organizing the Asian Night Markets, which have emerged as some of the most well-attended events on Oakton's calendar.

Before coming to Oakton, Aunaetitrakul worked at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU), leading efforts to create affinity spaces for the Asian American and LGBTQ+ communities.

Aunaetitrakul holds a Master of Science in Higher Education from California State University, Fullerton, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Media Studies from Queens College, City University of New York.