Asian American studies lacking

Jamie VanGeest

The University has majors in Chicano studies, African American studies and American Indian studies, but there is no major in Asian American studies.

The University established an Asian American studies minor in 2003 and incorporated the department in 2004, but there are students and faculty members who want more.

ìIt would be wonderful to have a major; our (Asian American studies) minor has grown steadily since it was established in 2003,” said Josephine Lee, director of the Asian American studies program and professor in the history department.

In 1998 faculty and staff members and graduate and undergraduate students organized the Asian American Studies Initiative at the University of Minnesota.

In 2003 those efforts became official when the Board of Regents established the Asian American studies minor.

The program has 17 students pursuing the minor, and most of the classes are filling up quickly during registration, said Erika Lee, an associate professor in the history department.

But to support a major, the Asian American studies program would need considerably more faculty members, courses, staff members and funding, Josephine Lee said.

ìRight now none of our faculty belongs to Asian American studies,” she said.

Every member of the Asian American studies faculty teaches in other departments, and Asian American studies courses are outside their normal teaching obligations.

A viable major program of 36 required credits in Asian American studies would require the department to have a more substantial curriculum than it currently offers, Josephine Lee said.

Examples of classes the minor program offers include Asian America through Arts and Culture and Asian American History: 1850 to the Present.

Erika Lee said there needs to be an Asian American studies major because it is a vibrant, intellectual field and Minneapolis is an area with a large, growing Asian population.

The 2000 U.S. census reported that the Twin Cities has the greatest concentration of Asian Americans in the interior of the United States. The census also found that the stateís Asian American population has increased by 108 percent since the mid-1990s (from 78,000 to more than 168,000).

ìStudents are interested in connecting what they are learning in the classrooms to their communities,” Erika Lee said.

May Losloso, a senior in political science and psychology who is also in the Asian American studies minor program, brought up the topic of a possible major at a recent College of Liberal Arts forum. She wanted to make others aware that there is no major. Losloso said she has been frustrated about the absence of a major.

One of Loslosoís concerns is that one of her Asian American studies professors is on the West Bank while another is on the East Bank.

Big Ten schools are forming a consortium between all the schoolsí Asian American studies programs and are hoping to share information and pool their resourses.

Leslie Bow, director of the Asian American studies department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said installing any major at any school is difficult without a universityís backing.

Bow said Madison also has an Asian American studies minor, but no major.

The University of California- Los Angeles has had an Asian American studies masterís program since the 1970s, and an undergraduate major since the 1990s, said Stacey Hirose, student affairs adviser for the Asian American studies department at UCLA.

UCLA has 160 students pursuing the major and 70 pursuing the minor.

ìThe classes offer students a chance to learn about themselves,” Hirose said.

Hirose said Asian American students often learn about other peopleís history, but not their own. This is why majoring in Asian American studies can be empowering, she said.