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Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is celebrated at Arizona State University in April and nationally in May, but in the Asian Pacific American Studies program in the School of Social Transformation, heritage and culture are celebrated every day.
The program seeks to educate students about justice and ethnic movements, immigration, globalization and race relations nationally and internationally.
“In addition to research and teaching on Asians in the Americas, [the Asian Pacific American Studies program is] also committed to focus on the ‘P’ in APA studies, which refers to indigenous peoples and cultures in the Pacific/Oceania,” said Karen Kuo, associate professor of the program. “We have faculty and research in both Hawaiian and Pacific Islander studies and all of our courses teach both Asian Americans and Pacific Islander history, culture and experiences.”
The program offers a bachelor’s degree, minor and undergraduate certificate in Asian Pacific American Studies, and has faculty specializing in a variety of fields including ethnic studies, history, gender studies, literature, psychology, education and equality.
“Because the program is inherently interdisciplinary, the faculty that are part of this department are experts in many different areas,” said Xena Baza, a senior graduating this May with a Bachelor of Arts in Asian Pacific American Studies and a minor in American studies. “The passion behind the faculty and the dedication they have is so inspiring.”
With access to experienced and dedicated faculty and staff, students in the program receive a well-rounded liberal arts education in critical thinking, communication and community engagement.
“The program prepares its students to think critically about society and the institutions of power behind it,” Baza said. “It helps us to understand today's political climate better and prepares us to be competent contributors to our society. By learning about the historical factors that have affected our ancestors, we can learn how to improve our current conditions and move closer to equity and make a difference.”
After graduating, students often go on to conduct graduate-level education research or pursue careers in fields including law, business, nursing and others.
Ronae Matriano is currently a junior in the program, pursuing Bachelor of Arts degrees in biological sciences and Asian Pacific American Studies, and minoring in communication. After graduating, she plans to pursue her doctorate in counseling psychology and continue her research in Asian-American psychology.
“I feel that the program has prepared me for life outside of college by teaching me how to work with diverse populations and understand the power of my role in the community,” Matriano said. “The classes have taught me how to enact social change to improve my surroundings, which is incredibly valuable to me.”
Baza and Matriano’s ability to engage in multiple areas of social sciences while pursuing their degrees is something the program’s well-rounded curriculum offers. Students of all backgrounds have the chance to explore various fields, as the courses offered cover topics relating to numerous aspects of life.
“Unlike most other Asian-American studies programs nationally, [our] program brings together the social sciences and humanities,” Kuo said. “Our students are empowered to make a difference with diverse communities; they learn and develop skills to work with people who are different than themselves.”
With such a diverse population of students, faculty and courses available, the Asian Pacific American Studies program seeks to encourage lifelong learning and community engagement in the hope of creating a better future.
“We all have something to learn and every course provides students with something valuable,” Matriano said.