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Chang, ASU begin Asian-American history forum

Taking a step toward offering a more extensive Asian-American studies program at the University, Asst. Dean of Students Glenna C. Chang and the Asian Students Union are creating an Asian-American historical studies forum.

The forum, which will meet once a month but is not part of the University curriculum, will focus on educating students about Asian-American history, a topic that students are generally not too familiar with, Chang said.

"The program is designed to develop a knowledge base" in this topic, she said. "It will provide a pan-ethnic experience, and students will learn how Asian-Americans have impacted this country."

Chang, along with third-year Law student Bobby Le and Asst. Orientation Director Monica Nixon, will be teaching the classes that will be open to any interested students.

The anthropology department now offers a class in Asian-American Ethnicity (ANTH 365), but it is only taught intermittently.

The forum, however, is just a starting point and it will not conflict with the existing course, Chang said.

"I don't see a problem if the same message is given out in a couple different formats," she said.

ASU President Stephanie Hsu, who worked with Chang to create the forum, said the new program has more of a historical aim than the anthropology class.

The monthly forums are part of a larger effort to eventually create a formal Asian-American studies program, Hsu said.

"We want to get people excited about it and take a step further," she said. "There are only a few courses that focus on Asian-American studies, so this [forum] is long overdue."

Although there are no formal plans for proposing an Asian-American Studies program, Chang said she expects to examine the issue after gauging student interest in the forum.

"It's essential at a top-quality institution to keep up with the trends," Chang said. "We have to be current in academics and make sure all needs are met."

Asst. Prof. Leonard Schoppa, director of East Asian studies, said although Asian-American studies are not included in his department's mission, he is looking forward to the forum.

"It is great that Dean Chang and students are committed enough to expanding their horizons beyond the course offerings at the University," Schoppa said.

The forum will address topics such as immigration patterns, gender stereotypes, hate crimes and other issues of Asian-American history.

"I hope that the group will be small enough for personal interaction, yet large enough for a widespread impact," Chang said.

ASU Asian-American Co-Chairwoman Jennifer Abastillas said a definite need exists for a program, but starting an official department will not be an easy task.

"It takes a lot of time -- people usually get discouraged if the program isn't implemented while they are still here at the University," Abastillas said.

For now, Chang said the primary focus is on creating excitement for the subject of Asian-American history.

"We are working on building enthusiasm, and we'll take it from there," she said.

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