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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    New class covers Asian-Americans

    Professors have cofounded a colloquium devoted to bringing Asian-American issues to students.

    The UA has entire departments devoted to regional studies and classes designed to educate students about issues, past and current, faced by ethnic groups. But unlike other schools, the UA does not have an academic program addressing the Asian-American and Pacific Islanders minority group – a group that, in 2006, made up almost six percent of the UA’s student population, according to the 2006-2007 UA Fact Book.

    “”In terms of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, I feel as though we are underrepresented in the education provided,”” said Edric Wong, pre-pharmacy sophomore and member of the Asian Pacific American Student Affairs and the Student Board of Directors.

    “”In order to increase diversity on campus, there should be more classes like these,”” Wong said.

    In order to provide students with the opportunity to learn about the Asian-American experience, four UA faculty and staff members organized a one credit-hour colloquium course.

    “”The university is a place to exchange ideas, and if we can’t do it here, we’re not meeting the obligation that this great university is all about,”” said Theodore Tong, associate dean of the College of Pharmacy.

    Tong and Dian Li, associate professor for East Asian studies, worked alongside Marc Johnston, director of APASA and Dan Xayaphanh, senior retention coordinator of APASA, to voluntarily co-found the class and coordinate classes as a team on top of their other university responsibilities.

    The class meets every Tuesday for 50 minutes and with each lesson a different speaker presents on Asian-American issues. Topics range from Asian-Americans and the law, to pop culture and the media.

    The course’s first speaker, Hank Oyama, was once placed in a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II and gave a presentation about Asian-American identity.

    “”We wanted each class to be a different discipline because Asian Pacific American Studies is multidisciplinary in essence,”” Johnston said. “”We wanted each day to be a taste of what Asian Pacific America Studies would look like.””

    Presenting the many aspects of Asian-American topics is difficult in a one-credit class, Johnston said.

    Johnston hopes to evolve the course into a three-credit introduction to Asian Pacific American Studies, and, if possible, eventually have the discipline become a minor at the UA.

    A permanent faculty would be needed, however, to make the dream of even an introductory level course a realityð – something that might not be realized without a standing Asian-American program to attract faculty members or with the pending university budget cuts, Johnston said.

    Attracting faculty is only one of the aspects that make an Asian Pacific American Studies program difficult. Another struggle stems from student interest.

    Johnston said that the Asian-American community is often overlooked because of the model minority and perpetual foreigner myths.

    The model minority myth refers to the stereotype of all Asian-Americans as high-achieving citizens with little need of assistance or recognition.

    The perpetual foreigner myth is the belief that anyone who looks to be of Asian descent has to be an immigrant rather than a natural-born citizen.

    “”We look Asian because we are, but we are more American than anything,”” Tong said. “”We want to try to overcome (the perpetual foreigner myth), and we overcome it by understanding the background and by learning the skills to overcome prejudice.””

    “”It is important for everybody to be involved in that learning and building that awareness in overcoming those issues,”” Johnston said about overcoming stereotypes of Asian-American citizens.

    Another reason why there isn’t much activism for an Asian-American studies course by students is that Asians are culturally a more reserved people, Johnston said.

    “”There’s a part of the stereotypical Asian cultural values were it is valued to be quiet, to just do your work. So when it comes down to advocacy and the fact that there are other ethnic specific academic programs, some communities may have been a little bit louder than Asian-American students,”” Johnston said.

    For now, there is no guarantee that the course will be offered next semester, and a more permanent Asian-American studies course is more wishful thinking than a feasible possibility.

    “”Without the Asian-American aspect, the diversity of our country is not whole,”” Li said. “”Asian-Americans are a major minority group, and we need to understand their culture if we are to consider ourselves diversely aware.””

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