San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

SDSU hires faculty to run new Asian American Studies Department

SDSU looks to expand its ethnic curriculum with its first-ever Asian American Studies Department
Jessica Parga
Students utilize the SDSU APIDA Center located in the Student Life & Leadership on Nov. 14.

For over 50 years, San Diego State University’s ethnic curriculum has consisted of three departments: American Indian Studies, Africana Studies and Chicana/Chicano Studies. These established departments offer majors, minors and a selection of courses to explore the study of race, ethnicity, and the experiences of people of color in the United States and beyond. 

According to Associate Professor and Department Chair of Sociology Minjeong Kim, SDSU’s ethnic studies curriculum lacks crucial Asian American representation. 

Kim, also the director of the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies, was appointed by Dean of College of Arts and Letters Monica Casper to be chair of the search committee for the developing Asian American Studies Department. While not formally recognized as a department, the center operates as an interdisciplinary instructional unit, offering 15 language courses and 11 additional Asian and Pacific studies courses.

While the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies has existed since 2008, its faculty are looking to extend the Center’s program with a recognized department at SDSU. During the 2022 spring semester, Kim hired Assistant Professor of Sociology Stephen Suh as an assistant professor and former Professor of English Alvin Henry as the associate professor in charge of developing the Asian American Studies Department. The two hires began their employment at the start of the 2022 fall semester.

“Because of the recent changes of the ethnic studies curriculum requirement, we were given two ‘lines’ to hire Asian American studies faculty members—one at the rank of assistant professor, the other at the rank of associate professor,” Kim said.

The 2021-2022 Assembly Bill 1460 Ethnic Studies Requirement was a recently passed bill that included a $57 million budget for the Ethnic Studies Requirement, allowing students to take at least three units of ethnic studies. Nearly 30% of the budget is allotted to expand campuses with little to no ethnic studies courses or departments to ensure all students have access to an ethnic studies course.

Mei Zhong, an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Media Studies and faculty member of the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies, stressed the importance of students understanding the Asian American experience.

“From someone who’s in the field, we’d like more students to benefit from the field,” Zhong said. “It’s a great move in the right direction. All students should be exposed to and learn to understand these cultural variations.”

While Zhong has not actively taught in an ethnic studies course in several years, she said she is excited about the evolution of the department and the new hires.

“The Center for Asian and Pacific Studies is a program that has existed for some time, but the new department is where they’re defining the field at SDSU,” she said.

Although the screening process remains confidential, according to Kim, the two hires come with outstanding scholarship and considerable experience in both teaching and service that make them qualified for the positions. 

Assistant Professor Suh received his doctoral degree in sociology from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in ethnic studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara. His research interests include the intersection of race, ethnicity, gender, migration, and culture through the lens of Asian Americans and the Korean diaspora. 

Associate Professor Henry received his doctoral degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley. His responsibilities as an associate professor include building the curriculum, major, and minor, as well as creating internship and apprenticeship programs for Asian American Studies students.   

According to Kim, she’s unsure of the next steps of the Asian American Studies Department but optimistic about the direction they are taking.

“We are not sure what form it will take,” she said. “It could be a department (focusing on Asian American studies), it could also be a department of both Asian and Asian American Studies, but we do want it to be a department in some fashion.”

Erin Flewelling, assistant director of SDSU’s Writing Center and lecturer in the Rhetoric and Writing Studies Department, was excited to hear about the developments of a new ethnic studies department. As the Writing Center’s Assistant Director, Flewelling creates learning modules about identity and writing, inclusive learning and anti-racism in the workplace.

“We have a statistically significant number of Asian American students. So I’m really surprised we didn’t have one yet,” Flewelling said.

Flewelling connected her sentiments to the Writing Center’s values on diversity and inclusion.

“If we want to create an inclusive environment, we have to know each other. We have to know other people’s identities, and in knowing people, we learn to respect them,” Flewelling said. “We want it not to be a project, but a way of being. To value everyone who comes in and the unique constellation of identities that each person brings.”

About the Contributor
Hannah Ly
Hannah Ly, '23-24 News Editor
Hannah Ly (she/her/hers) is a fourth-year journalism major and marketing minor from San Jose, California. She serves as the news editor of The Daily Aztec and previously worked as a writing tutor of SDSU’s Writing Center, gaining exposure to different writing styles and genres. In addition to her editorial role, Hannah holds positions as Vice President of the Asian American Journalists Association at her university and as the editor for Cal State Student Wire, a CSU wire service. Her passion lies in empowering others through impactful storytelling and editing. In her free time, she enjoys being a foodie, listening to live music, playing poker and honing her pickleball skills.
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SDSU hires faculty to run new Asian American Studies Department