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A Sense of Belonging

Student and teacherNewly launched Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies program a welcome addition to campus

UC San Diego will have a new program in Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies starting in fall, a long-awaited move that many students, faculty, staff and alumni have been eager to see.

Offering cultural programming and the university’s very first minor in Asian American and Pacific Islander studies, the new program is housed in the Institute of Arts and Humanities, along with 14 additional programs, including African American Studies and Chicanx and Latinx Studies.

Division of Arts and Humanities Dean Cristina Della Coletta said pursuing interdisciplinary studies through critical dialogue can help combat racism and foster a better understanding of unique people and places in the world, a sentiment felt by institute director Nancy Kwak.

“Interdisciplinary studies can help us think critically about larger questions of identity, place-making and social justice. This program isn’t just for Asian American and Pacific Islander students; it can help all of us make better sense of the world we inhabit,” said Kwak, an associate professor in the Department of History. The Institute of Arts and Humanities is administered by the Division of Arts and Humanities.

History associate professor Simeon Man will lead the program as faculty director. Also associate director of the institute, Man said UC San Diego is one of the last University of California campuses to establish a program of this type. Professor Emeritus of Mathematics Jim Lin taught the first Asian American Studies course at UC San Diego in 1986, which in large part led to the program today.

“The establishment of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies Program at UC San Diego is long overdue, and now couldn’t be timelier,” he said. “With the catastrophes of the global pandemic, climate change, racism and the violence of policing, it has become necessary to build spaces of collective study wherever possible, to understand how we got here and to build toward a different future. I’m hopeful that the program can be one more space to build community and to do this work.”

students at tableThe new program will emphasize the interdisciplinary study of history and culture of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, allowing students to examine the art, literature, history and political struggles of peoples originating from East, Central, South and Southeast Asia, and the islands in the Pacific Ocean.

The program emphasizes these groups not as discrete regional or ethnic identities, Man said, but rather as positions both formed and negotiated in relation to United States colonialism.

“Asians and Pacific Islanders are here, in the United States, because the United States was there,” he said. “We cannot fully understand their histories and experiences without acknowledging that fact and that colonialism persists.”

Read the full UC San Diego announcement >>


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