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George Vlahakis
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Joan Pong Linton
Asian American Studies Program

Melanie Castillo-Cullather
Asian Culture Center

Last modified: Thursday, September 25, 2008

IU establishes new Asian American Studies Program

Sept. 25, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- As part of a celebration of the 10th anniversary of Indiana University's Asian Culture Center, the university today (Sept. 25) announced that it has approved the establishment of an Asian American Studies Program.

Joan Pong Linton

Joan Pong Linton

Print-Quality Photo

Joan Pong Linton, an IU associate professor of English and an Asian American originally from Hong Kong, has agreed to serve as the interdisciplinary program's interim director. The new program includes 15 adjunct faculty members, who also have appointments in comparative literature, communications and culture, history, sociology, English, American studies, political science, East Asian languages and cultures and the schools of journalism, education and health, physical education and recreation.

The program will first offer an undergraduate minor in Asian American studies, with a undergraduate major and Ph.D. minor to be developed in subsequent years. Courses focusing on Asian American studies are already being offered at IU and will count towards the program's undergraduate minor.

"Asian American studies focuses on the Asian diaspora in the United States," Linton said. "It centers on diverse histories and a whole range of cultural and intellectual contributions by Asian Americans and their experiences in this country. Asian American scholars are very aware of the larger implications of this diasporic experience and have a more global sense of their cultural heritage.

"Many issues that confront our society today, such as immigration and cultural diversity, are also front and center in Asian American studies. For example, we will be doing a joint conference with Latino Studies on the question of citizenship," she said. "We plan on doing a lot of collaborative activities with other units in the university."

Bennett I. Bertenthal, dean of IU's College of Arts and Sciences and the Rudy Professor of psychological and brain sciences, said of the new program, "The creation of this program is a timely and academically significant initiative for the College, especially since it complements other programs in American culture and ethnicity."

Melanie Castillo-Cullather, director of the Asian Culture Center, said the ACC originally in 2001 brought together faculty and students to formulate a detailed proposal for an Asian American studies program as part of its advocacy mission.

"A representative cross-section of the student body -- from freshmen to doctoral students and business to biology students -- signed a petition to express their strong support for the creation of the program," Castillo-Cullather recalled.

The proposal for the Asian American Studies Program was unanimously approved by the College Policy Committee in fall 2002 and the next year a colloquium series was organized to foster intellectual discussions on Asian American issues on campus as a precursor to the program's establishment. It was sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, the Office of Academic Support and Diversity, the Asian Culture Center, and several other academic departments and programs.

In 2004, the IU College of Arts and Sciences designated three faculty lines for new members who will focus on the study of the Asian diaspora in the United States and around the world. In 2006-2007, with funding assistance from IU's Commitment to Excellence Program, the history and sociology departments each hired an Asian American specialist, Ellen Wu and Jennifer Lee. The English department and the American Studies Program also hired Asian American specialists, Denise Cruz and Karen Inouye.

The Asian Culture Center next weekend will celebrate the new program as part of its anniversary celebration. A social hour hosted by the Asian Pacific American Faculty and Staff Council will be from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 3 in the Faculty Room of the University Club at the Indiana Memorial Union, 900 E. Seventh St. It will be followed by a celebration banquet in the IMU's Alumni Hall, where the Distinguished Asian Alumni Award will be presented to Judge G. Michael Witte of Lawrenceburg, Ind.