October is Filipino American History Month, which commemorates the first recorded presence of Filipinos in the continental U.S. To learn more about Filipino culture, The Daily sat down with Naomi Sigg, senior associate dean in the Dean of Students Office, who identifies as a Filipina American.
Sigg first joined Case Western Reserve University in 2013 as the director of multicultural affairs. Her current position, which she started in July, allows her to connect students with the support systems and resources they need to be most successful at the university—while continuing to work on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts for the Division of Student Affairs and campus-wide.
“This new role also provided more opportunities to work with campus partners to create systemic changes to improve the campus climate for all students,” she noted.
As senior associate dean, Sigg is very open with students and speaks often of her Filipino heritage. She wants them to know she’s proud of her culture—and that usually opens the door for them to share about their cultures and identities, as well.
Born in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, Sigg immigrated to the U.S. as a small child. Her mother’s family is from Mindoro, in the west-central Philippines, and her father’s family is from Illocos Norte in the northern Philippines.
A first generation Filipino American immigrant and woman, Sigg said she’s had a lot of struggles to overcome in her lifetime—many of them due to misconceptions, assumptions or biases others had about her background and abilities.
“I also had to endure many microaggressions like people assuming that I would not have good English language skills and having to correct people when they made incorrect assumptions about my ethnicity,” she explained. “Additionally, I worked hard to overcome stereotypes that people had about Asian women and leadership.”
To this day, Sigg said there are few Asian women in leadership roles at institutions of higher education. She hopes to change that.
Sigg is currently forming a Filipinx in Higher Education group to provide professional development, networking and cultural identity education for members.
“We have members signed up to join the group from California to Dubai and I am excited to see how this group can collectively support each other,” Sigg added.
Outside of fostering community across higher education, Sigg works hard to ensure her three children are connected to their Filipino roots through food, language and continuing customs and traditions. One of those traditions is “mana po,” which is where someone takes the hand of an elder and brings it to their forehead as a sign of respect.