About AAST

Janelle Wong

Director's Welcome


Welcome to the Asian American Studies Program and Resource Center at the University of Maryland!
We are a program of study that draws upon the experiences of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans to explore critical questions about identity, representation, and power. Through a focus on Asian American communities, students learn about how racial categories are constructed, how groups are represented, and how power shapes social, political, and historical dynamics. The varied experiences of Asian Americans highlight a complex racial positioning that reflects both privilege and marginalization. As a predominantly foreign born group with members that hail from many different places, the experiences of Asian Americans also tell us much about how migration and transnationalism affect identity and belonging across diverse social, political and economic arenas.

Asian American Studies at the University of Maryland is distinct because it seeks to build strong ties to organizations and leaders in Washington, D.C. and the surrounding areas. As a scholar of Asian American politics, I believe that our proximity to the nation’s political center allows for exceptional research and learning opportunities related to policy and politics. In addition, our faculty members are both excellent researchers and first-rate teachers and many have dedicated much of their professional careers to advancing Asian American Studies.

As faculty and staff, we prioritize connections with local and national organizational partners, community members, and student groups. Not only do we offer a vibrant program of study and support to University of Maryland students with our 15-credit minor and scholarship programs, but we also hope to be a resource for the larger community through dissemination of faculty research, talks and symposia, and other opportunities for intellectual exchange and dialogue.

Our Mission

The mission of the Asian American Studies Program is to foster excellence in research and education about Asian Americans in the United States. AAST focuses on the lives, history, and culture of Asians from a comparative point of view. Specifically, we study persons who have immigrant and ancestral ties to any region of Asia and the Pacific.

Though there is no single Asian American identity, community, or experience, we believe that Asian American Studies provides a special opportunity for inquiry based on collaboration across fields and disciplines of academic study.

History

1970

Dr. Shirley HuneDr. Shirley Hune

In the mid-1970s, Shirley Hune taught the first Asian American Studies course at the University of Maryland, College Park as an adjunct instructor.  At the time, she was still a graduate student at The George Washington University. Today, Dr. Hune is Professor of Education and Leadership Studies at the University of Washington (Seattle). Prior to joining the University of Washington in 2007, she served as Associate Dean in the Graduate Division at the University of California, Los Angeles (1992-2007), where she was also a Professor of Urban Planning.  Prior to that she taught at Hunter College, where she was also an Associate Provost, and at Medgar Evers College, both part of The City University of New York. For three decades, Professor Hune has been involved in diversifying the curriculum and research in educational institutions and contributing to the development of ethnic studies and women’s studies.

1990-1995

During this period, Gloria Bouis (Former Executive Director of the UMD Office of Diversity Education and Compliance) provides critical support for students as they form  the Asian Student Union in 1990 (ASU was the precursor to the current Asian American Student Union student organization).  Gloria and Professor William Liu advise the student group leaders to reach out to the presidents of other Asian American student organizations and begin collaborating with them.  In 1992, the ASU starts their first leadership retreat and presidents from these Asian student organizations travel to Front Royal. Virginia to discuss leadership strategies, greater collaboration, and Asian American studies.  As a result of their work at the retreat, student leaders see the importance of an Asian American Studies curriculum.  The first outcome of these leadership retreats was the petitioning of  Professor Sangeeta Ray (English), to teach the first Asian American Experience course.

1995

Christina LagdameoChristina Lagdameo

Dr. Seung-Kyung KimDr. Seung-Kyung Kim

“Asian American Experiences” is offered as part of the Honors program. It is the only class addressing Asian American issues.  This brings the attention of students such as Christina Lagdameo '98, Linh-Thong Huu  (“Tone”) Nguyen '97, and Wendy Wang '97 who begin to campaign for a more robust set of classes to learn more about “our history and where we came from.” Lagdameo, Wang, Nguyen, Hsuan  Ou '97, and others co-found the Working for an Asian American Studies Program (WAASP) as part of the Asian American Student Union leadership structure in hopes of establishing an Asian American Studies Program that would create a permanent program of study and faculty and staff.

This group does extensive research on how other universities created their Asian American Studies programs, and makes formal proposals to the University Administration. Provost Daniel Fallon provides seed funds for the Asian American Studies Project (AASP). Dr. Seung-Kyung Kim provides lead faculty support and William Liu serves as Graduate Assistant on the project. More Asian American Studies courses are offered as a result of student, staff, and faculty activism during the 1995-96 academic year. According to students like Chandni Kumar '00 there is still a pressing need for a more comprehensive curriculum. In the Winter of 1995, AASP holds a one-day workshop for administrators and department chairs to create a formal proposal for an Asian American Studies Program to be approved by the University Senate. The proposal is given to University administrators but is repeatedly shelved.With the proposal pending, students continue an active campaign and get the word out in the community by means of teach-ins, high school visits, media outreach, chalking slogans around the UMD campus, protests, sit-ins, and informational sessions at Stamp.

1996

WAASP hosts the East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) annual conference at the University of Maryland, and Asian American college students from all over the country attend. The event showcases to the University the commitment that Asian American students have to Asian American issues. Many student leaders involved in WAASP and the Asian American Student Union create strong alliances with students in the Black Student Union and Latino Student Union. Together, they spread the word about the fight for an Asian American Studies Program to their members, as well as discuss issues affecting Asian Americans nationwide.

1997

Phil NashPhil Tajitsu Nash

Several revisions of the Asian American Studies proposal are submitted, but supporters are still skeptical that the proposal will pass. With seed funding depleted and a new Provost joining the University, students must reestablish their commitment to and campus relationships to push the proposal forward. Students continue their demand for the creation of an Asian American Studies Program. They organize a Stereotype Day, featuring students dressed as Asian stereotypes to raise awareness of the need for Asian American Studies. During one protest in front of Stamp (with 100-150 students gathered), a leader from the Black Student Union urges the group to march to the Administration Building.

A crowd of 200 students begin chanting “Asian American Studies Now!” and demand a meeting with the University’s President. Asian American Studies professor Phil Tajitsu Nash and student leaders meet with the President. As a result of their negotiations with the Administration, a Task Force on Asian American Studies is created to further develop the proposal. The Task Force on AAST submits a report on the AAST certificate program to the Provost’s office in the Winter of 1997.

1998

The Provost endorses the proposal, and a steering committee is created to develop a curriculum and identify professors. Students remain active in the process to ensure that the proposal is not shelved.

2000

Dharma NaikDharma Naik

The University Senate votes in favor of the proposal, and the Asian American Studies Program is approved. The dedication of Dharma Naik '00 and others who fought for the establishment of the Asian American Studies Program is central to the proposal moving forward. The Asian American Studies Program awards the first Asian American Studies Certificates.

2004-2005

Dr. Tim Ng serves as Interim Director of Asian American Studies at a critical juncture for the program. Under his leadership, a permanent director position for Asian American Studies was established in 2006. To recognize Dr. Ng's numerous contributions and efforts to advance Asian American Studies at Maryland, an AAST scholarship was later endowed by gifts from Dr. Ng, colleagues.

2007

The University Senate approves the Asian American Studies Minor Program.