Asian american studies

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Prepared by the Asian American Coalition Committee

Executive Summary
Asian American Studies is a thriving discipline across the nation. Evidence of this fact is that twenty-five of the top fifty U.S. universities as ranked by U.S. News and World Report have an AAS program or offer AAS classes, and more universities continue to establish AAS programs. AAS has developed a body of scholarship about the significance of Asian Americans that would be beneficial to UIC. Many times people confuse AAS with Asian Studies; however, each discipline is distinct from the other. Asian American Studies is an ethnic studies discipline that focuses on experiences of Asians in America. The basis for AAS is the analysis of Asians in the United States ranging from their history to their economic, political, and cultural impact. In contrast, Asian Studies—a minor that already exists at UIC—involves the study of Asia from a Western perspective. Although Asian Studies has moved beyond its original “Orientalist” approach at many institutions1, it focuses on Asia rather than Asian Americans. An AAS program at UIC would serve as an intellectual base for the understanding of Asian American cultures.
UIC students have been lobbying for an AAS program since 1990, but there has been slow progress on the part of UIC administration in establishing such a program. There are not enough permanent courses that exist at UIC on the experiences, histories, and contributions of Asian Americans. Asian American Studies courses have been taught in the English and Sociology departments, but regularly offered courses in additional disciplines are required for a viable program that can offer academic concentrations in AAS.
Because UIC is a prominent research institution, cultivating AAS is in UIC’s best interest. UIC will benefit from an AAS program by fulfilling its missions in teaching, research, and public service. UIC is the ninth most diverse university in the country and is the only university in the Great Lakes Midwest region that ranks in the top fourteen most diverse institutions.2 UIC’s undergraduate body is 24.9% Asian American, but UIC’s academic offerings are not reflective of this high percentage. Through the teaching of AAS, UIC will add to its commitment to “provide its undergraduates with an education which is both broad and deep” while “[taking] special account and advantage of the extraordinary ethnic and cultural diversity of the Chicago metropolitan area.”3 The Midwest is a region of growing research interest in AAS, and UIC can capitalize on its location in the largest metropolitan area in the Midwest by establishing an AAS program. AAS will provide UIC with a foundation for outreach into the surrounding ethnic communities that accomplishes its public service mission.
It is vital for the UIC community to have the opportunity to learn about the experiences and contributions of Asian Americans, which have been historically omitted from mainstream education. To consciously ignore the importance of Asian Americans’ contributions and experiences is to ignore their significance in the building of America. Understanding the experiences, needs, and sensitivities of different races is crucial because by the year 2050, Asians/Asian Americans will experience the greatest population growth in the U.S. of all race groups and that the proportion of non-Hispanic white population will be surpassed

by that of the minority population.4


“East of California” website, [], accessed 28 February 2005

2 “America’s Best Colleges.” U.S. News and World Report. 2005

3 UIC “Scope and Mission Statement.” [], accessed 27 February 2005

4 U.S. Census Bureau Population Projections [] accessed 2 March 2005

The Asian American Coalition Committee proposes that the University of Illinois at Chicago commit itself to the establishment of an Asian American Studies Program and support its development for academic research and education of Asian American experiences.
The goal of this proposal is:

  1. To describe Asian American Studies (AAS) as an academic field

  2. To articulate the reasons why UIC needs to develop an AAS program

  3. To recommend the first steps of a timeline for the establishment of an AAS program at UIC

Background on Asian American Studies

What is Asian American Studies?

Asian American Studies (AAS) is an interdisciplinary ethnic studies field that examines the experiences of Asians in America, ranging from their history of acculturation, immigration, and assimilation to the social, economic, and political impact on American society. AAS most commonly includes humanities and social science disciplines such as History, English, Sociology, Psychology, Anthropology, and Political Science.
It is not the same as Asian Studies. Asian Studies--a minor that already exists at UIC--is an area studies program that focuses on the study of Asia from a Western perspective. Although Asian Studies has moved beyond its original “Orientalist” approach at many institutions, it focuses on Asia rather than Asian Americans.5
The Goal of Asian American Studies

AAS challenges the traditional view of American history and minority experiences, which in turn helps promote critical thinking and cultural awareness. AAS provides students with a plethora of knowledge on a minority group that is too often overlooked in traditional American education. This knowledge encourages the understanding of Asian Americans in an increasingly multicultural society.

How Asian American Studies Began

As with other ethnic studies programs such as African American Studies and Latino/Chicano Studies, AAS originated with the mission to link the university classroom to ethnic communities. These ethnic studies fields began in the late 1960s after student strikes at San Francisco State University and the University of California at Berkeley. Although AAS has been flourishing in the West Coast region, the Midwest is a relatively new area of interest in AAS. The first AAS program in the Midwest was started at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1991. Since then, many Midwest universities have added AAS to their curricula (See Appendix A).

Asian American Studies Today

Asian American Studies is a thriving discipline across the nation. Evidence of this fact is that twenty-five of the top fifty United States universities as ranked by U.S. News and World Report have an AAS program or offer AAS classes, and more universities continue to establish AAS programs. AAS has developed a body of scholarship about the significance of Asian Americans that would be beneficial to UIC.
History of Asian American Student Efforts at UIC
Students have been an important factor in creating positive change at UIC. There have been student efforts to establish AAS at UIC for over ten years.
1991: Asian American Collegiate Organization (AACO) forms to increase Asian Americans’ political awareness and lobby for an AAS Program
1994: Student group Asian American Students in Alliance (AASIA) begins seeking faculty support for the creation of a Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Asian Americans
1996: Students Promoting Asian American Concerns (SPAAC) forms from members of AASIA to focus on gathering support for a status committee
April 1999: Chancellor David Broski approves SPAAC’s second proposal for a status committee
November 1999: Student group Coalition for Asian American Studies (CAAS) forms to raise awareness of Asian American issues and need for an AAS program at UIC
2000-2001: CAAS helps bring to UIC Dr. Rocio Davis, who teaches Asian American literature courses as a Visiting Professor in English
Summer 2001: CAAS renamed Asian American Coalition Committee to reflect the group’s broadened mission for an AAS program as well as a resource and cultural center for Asian Americans
Fall 2002: Two tenure-track faculty specializing in Asian American literature are appointed to the English department. A faculty line in History is postponed due to budget cuts and a university-wide hiring freeze
November 2002: Provost Tanner approves establishment of the Asian American Resource and Cultural Center (AARCC)
July 2004: Director of AARCC is hired

Rationale for an AAS Program at UIC

An academic program in AAS will fulfill UIC’s missions in teaching, research, and public service.


An Asian American Studies Program would be beneficial to UIC by adding to its commitment to “provide its undergraduates with an education that is broad and deep” while “[taking] special account and advantage of the extraordinary ethnic and cultural diversity of the Chicago metropolitan area.”6

Although Asian Americans make up 24.9% of UIC’s undergraduate population,7 8 there is little reflection of this fact in the university’s curriculum. By not having an AAS program, UIC fails its mission to take advantage of the diversity of the Chicago area and of its own campus.


Because AAS originated and has developed extensively on the West Coast, the Midwest is a relatively new region of research interest in AAS. That interest is growing, as is evident by the number of Midwest universities that have committed themselves to AAS since 1989 (See Appendix A). UIC’s location in the Midwest’s most populous city, its rank as a prominent research university, and its status as Chicago’s largest university, put UIC in a position to develop an academic program that has the potential to make UIC the leader in research on Asian American in the Midwest.

Public Service

Asian American Studies will provide UIC with a foundation for outreach into the ethnic communities of Chicago that will accomplish the university’s public service mission and its Great Cities commitment. An AAS Program at UIC will be able to work closely with UIC’s existing ethnic studies programs and the Chicago communities to address and educate on issues relating to social justice, immigration, and race relations. An AAS Program will provide the opportunity for students to become more closely involved with the communities in which they live through research and education, which is the culmination of UIC’s public service mission.

UIC is an ideal university to establish an AAS Program because of its location in a city where the Asian American population continues to grow (See Appendix B). The size of the Asian American population is relevant to an AAS Program at UIC because of the potential research that can be conducted on these groups. At UIC’s sister campus, UIUC, an AAS program already exists and continues to grow (See Appendix C) despite its location in an area of a smaller Asian American population.
Significance of an AAS Program for UIC Students
UIC students would benefit greatly from an Asian American Studies program. AAS is a developing field of scholarly research across the nation and UIC students are being deprived of a body of knowledge that would expand their understanding of the history and culture of the fastest growing minority group in the United States. An AAS program at UIC would enable students to learn about the rich history and culture of Asian Americans that are typically omitted from mainstream education. In a recent survey taken by the Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Asian Americans (CCSAA), a high percentage of students, eighty-two percent, feel that it is important to have an AAS program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Additionally, eighty-five percent of students feel that professors do not include any references to their ethnic heritage. Students will have the opportunity to engage in courses that are taught from a different perspective, which will challenge them to think differently about Asian Americans as well as the history students have been learning their whole lives. It is necessary that UIC commits itself to the development of an AAS program at UIC, not only to fulfill its mission statement, but because there is a clear demand from students for its creation.
Ethnic Studies programs reinterpret history by reframing preexisting knowledge. UIC students have already had the privilege to take African American Studies courses as well as Latino Studies courses and have witnessed firsthand how empowering awareness about communities of color can be. Furthermore, students will be able to critically reflect upon the experiences of Asian Americans and make connections to other marginalized groups in the United States. By learning more about contributions in the past and issues facing different communities in the present, UIC students can become agents of change in society and learn how to serve different communities in ways that would otherwise not be possible. While examining the culture and history of Asian Americans, students will simultaneously broaden their knowledge base of scholarly research. AAS would also help eradicate biases against Asian Americans and other people of color by bridging gaps among people of different races.

Links to Other Ethnic Studies Programs
Since the emergence of ethnic studies on the campuses of San Francisco State University and the University of California, Berkeley, Asian American, African American, and Latino Studies have acted as a linked body of scholarship. All three programs were understood as forming a collective project that sought to produce related scholarship on the meaning and significance of racial difference in the production of the U.S. nation-state. At UIC, this tradition of collaborative and cross-departmental work promises to produce comparative ethnic studies scholarship that will be a significant contribution to multiple disciplines. The possibilities of this work range from comparative analyses of Asian American and Latino diaspora, immigration, and settlement, to comparative work on the differential histories of residential segregation and ghettoization experienced by African Americans and Asian Americans in Chicago since the early 20th Century. Moreover, AAS can also collaborate with Native

American Studies at UIC to explore theoretical approaches to race and ethnicity. AAS is an essential field for any university or intellectual community who is interested in theorizing race, ethnicity and gender. At LAS, there is a very dynamic scholarly community who works on these fields and who are organizing a future graduate program in this area. The absence of AAS, or a field that is underdeveloped, would represent a major void in constituting such a program. It is compelling that UIC invest in, and be proactive in developing AAS into a full-fledged academic program. Both Dr. Beth Richie and Dr. Francis Aparicio, departmental heads of African American Studies and Latino/Latin American Studies, are deeply committed to developing AAS, which they understand as critically related to the intellectual projects of their own units.

(The Asian American Coalition Committee acknowledges Professor Helen Jun, Assistant Professor of English and African American Studies, and Dr. Frances Aparicio, Director of Latin American and Latino Studies, for their assistance in producing this portion of the proposal.)

UIC 2010: Strategic Thinking Report and Asian American Studies

In 2003, Chancellor Manning and Provost Tanner initiated the formation of the 2010 Strategic Thinking Committee in order to actively plan for the future development of UIC. We believe that the launch of an Asian American Studies program directly corresponds with many of the recommendations and goals stated in the report and would advance the university toward achieving its anticipated vision to a significant degree.

1) Asian American Studies is a growing interdisciplinary field with remarkable potential for new scholarship and knowledge. The study of the Asian American experience naturally explores “notions of culture and difference” (page 7) and addresses present-day, real-world issues.

One of the key recommendations in the 2010 Strategic Thinking report reads as follows:

While a major research institution will have gifted people and strong programs in the core disciplines, UIC must also excel in new areas of knowledge, which increasingly cross traditional academic boundaries and deal with important, real-world questions. Research in these new areas can exploit our unique mix of talent and resources: for example, from a campus rich in cultural differences, we will draw scholars committed to working across disciplines to explore the notions of culture and difference. Throughout UIC, increased cooperation and collaboration among disciplines can give rise to new knowledge. (7)

2) Asian American Studies will promote further engagement with the diverse city of Chicago and build upon UIC’s “Great Cities” commitment.

UIC will seek to be the leading example of the engaged uni­versity, working in partnership with the people, institutions and businesses of Chicago and the world to achieve excellence in human, community and urban development. (9)

As the report reemphasizes UIC’s continual commitment to the Great Cities initiative and articulates a vision of the “city as campus, campus as city,” it implicates the need for greater collaboration and partnerships with surrounding communities (8, 12). Asian American Studies will not only increase the number of these relationships, it will also diversify them. “We must extend the boundaries of the university in both the physical and virtual worlds, to establish relationships between UIC and its many communities.” (12)

3) Asian American Studies would contribute significant progress toward the objectives outlined in the section entitled, “The Changing Nature of UIC and Implications for 2010” found in Appendix 1 (30-34) of the Strategic Thinking report.

#2: Current/Future Assumption: Integrated urban campus of UIC

Implications for 2010: UIC’s contribution to the state and to intellectual communities, and its standing as an equal to UIUC, will be acknowledged… Community-building will be emphasized, with respect to the complexities of UIC's urban, international, diverse and multi-disciplinary identity.  (30)
#9: Current/Future Assumption: Mixed generation undergraduate students with very diverse backgrounds and increasing pool of competitive graduate students from across the region, nation and world

Implications for 2010: A wider range of student needs will be met, from services and programs to curriculum…Faculty will increasingly reflect the diversity of the student population. (32)

Proposed Timeline for Establishing an Asian American Studies Program at UIC

  1. By Fall 2005, formation of a taskforce whose mission is to begin developing the AAS Program.

  2. Beginning Fall 2005, appointment of adjunct or visiting faculty to teach at least two additional AAS courses per semester until permanent faculty lines are appointed

  3. Beginning Spring 2006, ensure that an introductory course in AAS is taught each semester

  4. Beginning Fall 2006, ensure that at least three courses on AAS topics are taught each semester (in addition to the introductory course) in multiple LAS departments

  5. By Fall 2006, hire a senior faculty in History or Sociology to serve as Director of the AAS Program

  6. By Fall 2008, create at least five (5) faculty lines to develop and teach courses for the AAS Program within these departments and colleges: Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology, Political Science, Gender and Women’s Studies, Criminal Justice, Education, Architecture and the Arts

  7. By Fall 2008, establish an interdisciplinary minor in Asian American Studies

Appendix A: Midwest Universities with Asian American Studies


AA % of


(Fall 2004)

Academic Offering

Date Established

Number of Faculty

Department or Program Housing AAS

DePaul University


Intended Minor

Spring 2006

7 core,

1 affiliated 

AAS Program with Department of Communications

Michigan State University



Fall 2004

 7 affiliated

College of Social Sciences

Northern Illinois University



Fall 2004 


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Northwestern University



Fall 1995

5 core,

2 graduate instructors

AAS Program

Ohio State University



Fall 1997

5 core

AAS Program

University of Chicago






UI at Chicago






UI at Urbana Champaign



Fall 1997

6 core,

13 affiliated, 2 fellows

AAS Program

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor




9 core, 21affiliated, 1 fellow

Department of Ethnic Studies

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities



Fall 2003

9 core,

4 affiliated

Department of American Studies

University of Wisconsin, Madison



Fall 1991

12 core,

3 affiliated

 AAS Program

Appendix B: Asian American Populations


In 2000

Growth from 1990 to 2000


Asian Americans (#)

Asian Americans as % of the total population

Asian Americans

Total Population


11.9 million





0.5 million




Cook County

0.3 million




Appendix C: Comparisons Between UIC and UIUC


UG Total (%)

UG Freshmen (%)

Operating Budget

Research Budget




$ 1.36 billion

$ 262.8 million




$ 1.29 billion

$ 427.1 million

Comparison of Number of Faculty Teaching AAS Courses and Their Departments

UI at Urbana-Champaign UI at Chicago

Anthropology – 3 English – 1.5

English – 1*

Political Science – 2

Sociology – 2

Psychology – 1

Theatre – 1

Music – 1

Social Work – 1

Curriculum and Instruction – 1

Religious Studies – 1

History – 1

Dance – 1*

Asian American Studies – 5

Post-Doctoral Fellows – 2 per year

* Joint appointment with Asian American Studies

Three of these are joint appointments with other departments

5 “East of California” website, [], accessed 28 February 2005

6 UIC “Scope and Mission Statement.” [], accessed 27 February 2005

7 Student Data Book. Data Resources and Institutional Analysis, University of Illinois at Chicago: 2004.

82 Student Data Book. Data Resources and Institutional Analysis, University of Illinois at Chicago: 2004.

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