The 2006-2007 Academic Year marks the 10th Anniversary of our program. Our program grew out of the tireless efforts of many undergraduate and graduate students, as well as dedicated staff and faculty. Its purpose is to promote studies of Asian Americans and the Asian diaspora more generally. We hope to critically examine studies of race, ethnicity, and immigration and to encourage a curriculum that integrates studies of this population and examines its place in the history of the United States. We do so through an interdisciplinary lens that both recognize the diversity and commonality of experiences of various Asian American ethnic and national groups.
Dr. Rosane Rocher, Professor Emerita of South Asia Studies, served as the Founding Director of the Program. The program also enjoyed early support from individuals such as Dr. Benjamin Shen (former Provost, and Reese Flower Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and Astrophysics), Dr. Gary Okihiro (Professor of International and Public Affairs and Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University) and Dr. Gail Nomura (Assistant Professor of American Ethnic Studies, University of Washington) worked as external reviewers, while Dr. Peter Conn (Professor of English at Penn) and Dr. Lynn Lees (Past Chair and Professor of History at Penn) served on the first advisory board for the program. In 1996, the program hired its first faculty – Dr. Mark Chiang (Assistant Professor of English, University of Illinois, Chicago) and Dr. Grace Kao (Associate Professor of Sociology at Penn). Over the next several years, we added Dr. Eiichiro Azuma (Associate Professor of History at Penn, as of July 1, 2007) and Dr. Jo Park (Assistant Professor of English). We are fortunate that Grace Kao and Eiichiro Azuma are now tenured faculty, which gives our program some permanence. Over the years, we have also enjoyed courses taught by adjunct faculty including many important scholars in Asian American Studies and Race and Ethnicity more generally. Our past adjunct instructors include Dr. Mae Ngai (Professor of History, Columbia University), Dr. Henry Yu (Associate Professor of History, UCLA), Dr. Ji-Yeon Yuh (Associate Professor of History, Northwestern University), Dr. Yoonmee Chang (Assistant Professor of English, George Mason University, Dr. Angela Reyes (Assistant Professor of English, Hunter College), and Dr. Okiyoshi Takeda (Assistant Professor of History, School of International Politics, Economics, and Business, Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo, Japan), just to name a few. We are also delighted to have Ms. Fariha Khan (Ph.D. Candidate, Folklore), and Mr. Matt Weed work for us this past year. During the past 10 years, the program has also benefited from many passionate undergraduates, who have served either on our Undergraduate Advisory Board or worked as work-study students. We have enjoyed warm relationships with the Departments of Sociology, English, and History, and we have affiliated faculty from Anthropology, English, History, Sociology, South Asia Studies, and the Graduate School of Education and the School of Medicine. We have also important ties to the Center for Africana Studies, Latin American and Latino Studies, Women’s Studies, and the Center for East Asian Studies. It is also an exciting time as the School of Arts and Sciences will soon decide whether to institute a U.S. Diversity Requirement, which will require all undergraduates in the College to take one course that examines issues of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and/or religious differences in the United States. As I chair the Task Force to create the wording for this requirement, Asian American Studies has played an important role in developing this proposal. While this has not yet been implemented, the fact that the Penn community is having a conversation about it is certainly progress.
While we have enjoyed considerable support and success at Penn, we continue to face a number of challenges. First, we have no full-time administrative staff; this makes it hard for us to maintain our current level of programs and course offerings, much less to mount any additional programs. Second, we still only have three faculty members (Kao, Azuma, and Park) who were hired for the program but all of whom are housed in their home disciplinary departments. In addition, we hope that our course enrollment and the number of minors continues to flourish. Finally, we look forward to continued support by students and alumni who value the program to remind the administration of our importance not only to the Penn Asian American community, but to the entire Penn campus.
On this very important occasion, we wish to thank all of the wonderful students, staff, and faculty who have made it possible for us to exist and thrive at Penn!
Director, Asian American Studies Program
Associate Professor of Sociology, Asian American Studies, and Education