TOP 30: Traci Ishigo


Traci Ishigo
Major: Sociology
Minor: Asian American Studies
Age: 21
Year: 3
Hometown: Northridge
In One Word: Gratitude

Traci Ishigo chose her major not based off the career she may have in her future, but rather because she felt there was something to learn within the major. If she could go back in time, she would be an Asian American studies and Women’s Studies double major. She dedicates her time and energy to achieving social justice in the community, and really fighting for the rights of others.

Traci enjoys education and learning through dialogue, as well as community organizing. She would love to do something that’s a mixture between education, youth development, and community organizing around issues that are affecting the community.

Emerline Ji recalls meeting Traci and being shocked that Traci remembered her attendance at a REACH workshop, while waiting for an ASUCI interview. After getting to know Traci better, she describes her as a “highly sociable and strong API woman who knows what she stands for firmly. [Emerline has] yet to meet many people whom [she] respects at all. However, Traci is surely one of those people added to [her] special list.” Another friend, Sabreen Shalabi commends Traci as she has “stood up for the rights of many, along with spreading awareness on diversity and just being amazing”.

KS: Tell us about yourself.

TI: I grew up in San Fernando Valley, with my parents and my older sister Amy. We also had a dog named Lucky, but she passed away last year. We’re a constantly evolving family, and I feel that ever since I came to college especially that the relationship between my parents and me has grown a lot and that it’s not only me that’s changing in college, but it’s been them as well. I’m just so grateful to see them grow as people despite how much older they are. They’re getting involved with Buddhism more, and they’re challenging themselves and taking dance classes together. My dad’s picked up a hiking hobby, and I’m just thankful that we’re all growing and changing together. Both my parents are Japanese American, and my mom is someone who has put a lot into perspective for me, as far as wanting to fight for everyone’s right to an education. She emigrated here when she was younger, at about 9 years old, with her 2 sisters, and my jichan and bachan, my grandparents, from Hiroshima. I’ve seen my mom not have as many opportunities as my college educated father has. My dad grew up in Hawaii, and so I feel that I’ve had a very yonsei (fourth generation Japanese American) experience growing up. Learning about my dad’s history, and my dad’s family’s history, and being in Hawaii during World War II has been really interesting as well. I draw a lot from those experiences, for the kind of activism that I feel is necessary today.  I’m Jodo Shinshu Buddhist, I grew up playing basketball… a pretty Japanese American experience.

KS: What have you accomplished here on campus, and what do you hope to accomplish?

TI: I feel like a lot of what could be considered accomplishments on campus aren’t just my own, but really with people who are equally as passionate and dedicated about these issues as I am.  We’ve collectively chosen these issues because we all feel a personal investment in them, and so I definitely wouldn’t feel comfortable just claiming that this is an accomplishment of mine. I’m just so grateful. If anything, I think one of my accomplishments would be the fact that I’m surrounded by people who are so committed to social justice, and that we are continuously supportive of each other due to this larger cause that we’re all really committed to. This is cross-community, as well, so it’s people from a lot of different backgrounds and perspectives, and I think that’s a really beautiful thing.

I hope to continue working with people, who feel that they have a stake not only in issues of accessibility and affordability, but really just campus climate, and the level of inclusion that we have here at UCI, and how we can be a more conscious school. Since now that a few people I trust and myself are going to be some of the executives next year for ASUCI, we’re really hoping that we are a part of the process of transforming ASUCI into a more conscious space that’s really critical about the issues that are affecting students, and are going to be genuine about the work that we’re trying to do. After all, it’s our right to have a voice, and it’s our right to try improving this university that we’re all paying so much for.

KS: How have you been involved with the Asian Pacific Islander community?

TI: I started connecting with the API community and building my API identity when I was the public policy intern for the JACL (Japanese American Citizens League) Pacific Southwest District Office. That was probably one of the most challenging summers, because I learned so much about immigration, immigration policy, and injustice affecting the API community and other communities. We worked on higher education accessibility for the API community, and met with different people from different API organizations who were also concerned, as we were trying to organize this conference. Also, with the Tuesday Night Project, I was able to do a lot more volunteering when I was a JACL intern. But basically, the Tuesday Night Project is a community and arts organization in downtown Little Tokyo. It is a space for Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, other people of color, and just artists in general to have a space that is inclusive to share their work and their art with other people, and for us as audience members to just appreciate that. That’s been going on for more than 10 years. I felt like I learned a lot from that space, and it was really great meeting community organizers in Little Tokyo. Currently, I am working with Marissa Kitazawa, who is the PSW pseudo-regional director right now on a young adult leadership seminar or retreat. It’s a conjunction with her series, which is learning through oral history cross-generationally, but the portion that I’m planning is just a day for young adults, whether they be from high school or college, to learn about multiple identities as people and as individuals,  and also a lot more about social justice. I’m hoping that it’ll help politicize a lot more people in understanding our history, our positionality as Japanese Americans, and also how we can get involved in this struggle as young Japanese American activists. We’re doing that in the San Fernando Valley, and it will be held over the summer.

KS: Who or what do you feel is the biggest influence on you?

TI: It’s a collection of multiple things – I feel so lucky, privileged, and amazed at the different experiences and the people that I’ve been exposed to throughout college so far, and I think it’s a collection of all those different stories that has really inspired me to keep searching for ways to work towards a more socially just society. I came into college wanting to help people, which was why I was originally an International Studies major. I only understood the helping people in this humanitarian abroad kind of aspect, but once I met people who were so invested in giving back to their community and also just for the dignity of all students to have a right to higher education, I became inspired to be dedicated to this work that I feel is meaningful.

KS: What are you most passionate about?

TI: People having the most opportunities for connection. Also a right to living a very merit-based life, and working against the influence and the control that power and privilege have on our lives and these kind of structures that we’re all growing in, and making sure that we all have equal opportunity to do what we want to do with our lives.

KS: What is the kindest thing that you have ever seen either done to you or done to another person by someone else?

TI: What I’m thinking about at this moment is that all the support that the Rooted In slate and I had during the campaign was so helpful and necessary during the campaign process, physically and emotionally, and really most importantly, mentally. And it was really reassuring that this was something that we all wanted, and I don’t think it was just about me, but it was about all the support from the campaign team and the constant good energy and vibes that we saw from so many people. It was really about what we, as candidates, were standing for. I felt like that really something I appreciate a lot.

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    Asian Pacific-Islander Heritage Month (APIHM) is hosted by the Asian Pacific Student Association at UCI and features various programs, workshops, and events that celebrate the APIA culture and address pertinent issues in the APIA community.

    Please refer to the tabs above for more details regarding each event.

  • Contact Us

    Any inquiries regarding Asian Pacific-Islander Heritage Month can be directed to Programming Coordinators, Siamrath (Sam) Boonsakul and Alison Tominaga, at

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