Shaping the future of UF’s APIA community: Stefan SanguyoAlyssa Ramos
Feb 19, 2018
Stefan Sanguyo is a 20-year-old, third-year University of Florida criminology major from Baker, Florida. He is also member of UF’s Air Force ROTC program. Over the course of his college career, Sanguyo has been heavily involved in Asian American Student Union, participating in numerous leadership positions in several sub organizations and committees. Currently, Sanguyo is the Field Training Preparation Liaison officer in his ROTC program, the treasurer for his Asian American cultural fraternity, Pi Delta Psi, and the Liberal Arts-06 senator for Impact. Sanguyo is currently running for treasurer with the Impact Party.
What made you want to become involved in SG?
Going back to my high school, I was very involved, but it was very small. It only had a class of 100 people. I saw being involved as a way of helping other people interact and learning from others and learning about myself to become more confident. Coming to UF, I wasn’t involved in anything, I didn’t know where to get involved because there’s so many organizations on campus. Student Government was definitely one of the first things I was thinking about.
That new year going into the next semester, I was challenging myself and telling myself that I really wanted to do a lot. The first semester all I did was work, eat, PS4, go home and go to class. That’s it. So pushing myself out of my comfort zone was something I always lived by.
I applied for AASU’s treasurer for an entire term, and it kind of changed how I viewed the college experience just dealing with people and being understanding and open minded. As AASU’s treasurer I was humbled to be able to work with all of AASU’s suborgs and programs. Being AASU’s treasurer wasn’t only being in charge of money, but also being a mentor for the incoming class and educating others.
Through my time as a freshman, I really learned to appreciate the Asian American community on campus because the people who I go to are a support system. The college relationships I made here are really important to me.
Being a senator opened my eyes to not just understanding things that are going on in AASU but going outside in other communities.
I slated for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences seat for Senate. At the time it was one party, it was kind of hard because … it was an opposed seat, so it wasn’t guaranteed. I decided to slate because I wanted to branch out. I only did AASU and ROTC, and my one goal before I graduated college was to involve myself with SG especially my first semester as a freshman. So I ended up winning my seat, and I was able to really expand my network of people and also understand how I was in the AASU bubble and I wasn’t aware of stuff happening outside of AASU. Being a senator opened my eyes to not just understanding things that are going on in AASU but going outside in other communities.
I really wanted to help others because I get great satisfaction from that and contributing to a mission. All of these experiences together and my passion – not with just AASU, but for the entire student body – have propelled me to run for student body treasurer.
What can you do as treasurer that would create space for marginalized identities?
A few things that I would like to see as treasurer or as any leader position in the future is to have an open dialogue and being able to not just listen to people but also understand what they need. As a student body treasurer, a tangible idea would be to implement office hours whether it’s online or in-person or have a theme to specify people’s concerns. Let’s say, Monday would be about APIA issues, MCDA spaces or budgets.
Something my executive ticket was adamant about is about having a Black State of the Campus address – it shouldn’t just be the Black Student Union; we as Asian Americans need that safe space and open dialogue to voice our concerns. I know that AASU had a town hall event, and that’s great because it helped educate me personally, but to have a campus wide APIA state of campus address is something I’d be passionate about. I think it’s important that SG plays a role in the development of MCDA spaces.
Something my executive ticket was adamant about is about having a Black State of the Campus address – it shouldn’t just be the Black Student Union; we as Asian Americans need that safe space and open dialogue to voice our concerns.
What are some things that you hope to accomplish that will help the Asian American community at UF?
As a student body treasurer, it’s important to know that the 800 codes can list out all the things that you can and can’t do, and it’s up to student body treasurer and [other leaders] to enforce but at the same time work with students to give them what they need.
For example, every year, the needs of the student body change, and it’s up to the people responsible for creating the budget to determine whether these resources need more funding. Specifically with AASU … renegotiating the Aramark contract. The contract says that if it’s an on-campus event, we can’t bring local vendors for food.
For Asian Kaleidoscope Month’s food festival, they had an issue where they couldn’t have their food festival event on campus because we would bring in different local vendors that serve authentic food. It was either have it on campus and use approved caterers like Classic Fare or Panda Express, but that’s an issue because the food festival is about embracing cuisines from different cultures. It was really hard for directors and other suborgs to bring in food. That’s something I want to change that will not only help with AASU, but help different communities fix the same problem.
It was either have it on campus and use approved caterers like Classic Fare or Panda Express, but that’s an issue because the food festival is about embracing cuisines from different cultures.
Why do you want to run with Impact?
It was the party that I saw at the time that created tangible change on campus. I’m not going to say that Impact is perfect, but I am going to say that I have seen the best of what Impact has been able to do. I know that there are limitations as to what students can do, but at the end of the day, it’s about working with the administration. Impact party has been able to deliver on their promises, and they don’t make promises they can’t keep. Everyone I’ve worked with in my time as a senator has been very genuine, and they care about students.
We talk about Impact being a diverse party – we’re not all going to agree on the same things, so we have different opinions on what should be done. At the same time, it’s necessary for us to have that diverse voice. While it’s the majority party, we still have conflicts with our party on whose voice we should focus on, and that’s something I want to be a part of to gauge positive change.
What do you think are biggest issues facing Asian Americans on campus?
I would say representation, but also education. A lot of people that I talk to in AASU either aren’t aware of what is going around them, or they just don’t care. The Asian American community here on campus has been considered passive, and it’s kind of noticeable. Like HSA and BSU – they’re communities here that are very fired up for topics that are very important, while with AASU it’s a small amount of people that are really passionate. And I want to change that.
It starts with educating the entire community of how policies in SG or policies with the administration or local government and state government who we are as college students. I think that’s something that isn’t necessarily said, but as an Asian American that’s something I think we should work on.
Like HSA and BSU – they’re communities here that are very fired up for topics that are very important, while with AASU it’s a small amount of people that are really passionate. And I want to change that.
Did you ever feel like you’ve had to combat stereotypes that people may have held about what it means to be Asian American? If so, what were they and how did you respond to them?
Through elementary school and all the way through my high school years, I faced a lot of discrimination, but I wasn’t educated enough to really understand how hurtful and how offensive these things were. People would make fun of how my eyes were like, how I’m really ‘chinky,’ or they would say, ‘you’re supposed to be really smart.’ If I got an answer wrong, they would be like, ‘you should have gotten it right’ and ‘you’re supposed to have straight A’s.’
When my mom would make me Filipino food, and I would open my Tupperware at lunch, the smell would fill the cafeteria. They would be like ‘what’s that smell?’ I felt like I was taking all of these things and internalizing it, so going through my middle school years I was still on the path of internalizing all of these stereotype and accepting it.
At the time, my school had three Asians. We were surrounded by non-POCs (people of color) and it was hard because a lot of people didn’t understand where I came from or what my culture was. It was hard because I didn’t know how to speak English as well as other students even though I was born here.
When I grew up I was pretty much told that my ethnicity and my culture was not accepted, and it was rough – even my teachers enforced it. Going into college, I realized how wrong these [stereotypes] were and how wrong it was for me to accept all of these. As soon as I [entered AASU] I learned more about my culture and my identity. It was hard growing up and figuring out whether I was Asian or American, but I can now confidently say that I am an Asian American.
… It was hard because a lot of people didn’t understand where I came from or what my culture was. It was hard because I didn’t know how to speak English as well as other students even though I was born here.
How important do you think diversity is at UF?
Diversity with the right intentions is important here at UF because we pride ourselves on being a diverse campus and having the ability to allow free speech for any identity – I think it is important that we are diverse. Even within the federal government there are problems with representation for different minority groups.
As a college student, as someone who wants to be included in the air force as a second lieutenant, I think diversity is not something we can tackle in one day. It has to be something we really need to accept.
It’s gonna take time because we all have different opinions. And every person on campus has a different way of how they see things and you can’t change the views of 50,000 students over one day, but what you can do is educate 50,000 students the most that you can on why it’s important that we be inclusive to other people.
I identify as an Asian American, but it’s important that I be open-minded to other people who aren’t Asian American and different communities. I’m not going to be able to relate to people who aren’t born here and had to struggle to get here and get to college, but it’s important that I listen and really be flexible. I tell myself it doesn’t take someone to be an Asian American to be an advocate for Asian Americans. For us to focus on diversity is one step in the right direction and I think diversity is absolutely an important thing for us on campus.
I tell myself it doesn’t take someone to be an Asian American to be an advocate for Asian Americans.
What advice do you have for new students looking to carve their own identity and navigating student involvement at UF?
My advice to new freshmen is to really use the college experience to either better yourself or teach yourself to be more inclusive and be more open-minded to things you may have not wanted to do before. For some people, college is the last stop for them before they get into the real world, and I feel like – sure, you learn the academics in order to get a job, but you also learn to interact with people, be a team player and be a dynamic follower. All of these traits you learn through your involvement here through UF.
For me, my passion to give back to other people was fueled by my involvement in AASU, ROTC, PDPsi and SG. Be open to trying new things and really push yourself to do the impossible. In the end, it’s not impossible unless you set your mind to it.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
See more of our Q&As with Asian American Students on UF’s Executive Ticket:
Bijal Desai – Inspire Vice President Candidate