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Asian American Studies Evolves From Program to Department

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Reflecting its continual growth since the 1990s, Cal State Fullerton’s Asian American Studies Program officially became a department last week. The proposal was unanimously approved at a Jan. 25 Academic Senate meeting and signed into effect Feb. 13 by CSUF President Fram Virjee.

The status change recognizes Asian American studies’ longtime operation as an independent unit with its own budget, personnel standards, full-time equivalent students target, and representation on both the Humanities and Social Sciences Council of Chairs and University Council of Chairs. No additional costs or resources were required for the change in designation.

“The approval of the Asian American studies’ proposal to change its status from program to department sends a clear message to students and the community that Asian American studies is an essential part of a CSUF liberal education,” said Eliza Noh, professor of Asian American studies and the department’s inaugural chair. “Asian American studies critically contributes to a university education by preparing students to thrive as globally engaged citizens.”

Established in 1996 as an interdisciplinary minor and free-standing program, Asian American studies hired its first full-time faculty member in 1998. In 1999, the Asian American studies option within the bachelor of arts in ethnic studies degree was approved.

From  1997 to 2017, 90 students graduated with a bachelor’s degree in ethnic studies-Asian American studies; 29 students completed the minor; and 6,389 non-ethnic studies majors enrolled in Asian American studies courses.

Additionally, Asian American studies played a key role in the establishment of CSUF’s Asian Pacific American Resource Center and continues to develop strong community partnerships with such organizations as the Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance, Korean Resource Center, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Orange County, and Vietnamese American Arts and Letters Association.

In the fall 2017 semester, 20.5 percent of the student body identified as Asian and 0.2 percent identified as Pacific Islander. The Asian American Studies Department currently has five full-time, tenured faculty members and a team of lecturers.