The Asian Pacific American Studies minor kicked off last night with an interest meeting in Newcomb Hall. Although the minor was approved by the College last semester, the program officially will be available starting this fall. Last night's presentation included a history of the program as well as the specifics and requirements of the minor. Asian Pacific American Studies has a long history with efforts to institute the program at the University dating as far back as 1995. The program has encountered several obstacles and criticisms along the way. Although courses dealing with Asian-American culture currently exist, next semester will mark the first time students will be able to count these courses towards a minor. The Asian Pacific American Studies minor distinguishes itself from the currently existing Asian Studies and South Asian studies programs. The new program will be independent with its own faculty and advisers. Enrico Castillo, vice president of the Asian Student Union, said rather than studying the Asian cultures that are situated in Asia, students will be able to study the experience of Asians who live in America. English and American Studies Prof. Sylvia Chong, who will teach in the program, said in an e-mail that there has been a positive response to the minor. She said she hopes that the minor will allow all students, not just Asian Americans, to develop their critical thinking about the issue. "We hope to build on the existing strengths of the African-American Studies program and the American Studies program at U.Va. to further the conversation on race and ethnicity in America, in all of its complexity," Chong said. ASU member Doug Lee said he was proud that the program has gained ground and hopes that it will expose more students to issues of diversity. "Student apathy and ignorance are big barriers, but I think that awareness has improved over the past few years," Lee said. Assistant Dean of Students Daisy Rodriguez emphasized that the minor is not limited to Asian students and encouraged all students to take advantage of the program.