Pacific Ties asked graduate students who are majoring in Asian American Sutides to talk about why they chose the major, what their research interests are, and what they hope to gain from the field. Below are the responses.
Ger Xiong; 1st year
Asian American Studies has provided me interdisciplinary analytical lenses to explore the historical and cultural experiences of Asian and Pacific Islanders in the United States. I chose the program because of its exciting and dynamic community of students and scholars who are committed to student empowerment. Moreover, I saw that the program’s astounding history of activism, innovation and interdisciplinary research could advance my research interests and learning experience. The program has been an amazing phenomenon and it is an utmost privilege to be a part of it. The faculty as really challenged us to deepen our talents, to think critically, and analyze laws not only from a theoretical perspective but also from the perspective of ethnic communities affected by them.
My research interests revolve around examining reproduction control among underprivileged and marginalized communities. I am interested in examining reproduction control within the Southeast Asian community—in particular the Hmong, who have very high rates of fertility in the United States. I want to look at how reproductive sterilization affects Hmong women’s notion of motherhood, gender identity and sexuality. I desire to conduct qualitative research that asks questions about contemporary reproduction injustices, to systematically investigate institutions that envelop them, and to understand how and why its mundane control has persisted underneath the public eye.
Through the Asian American Studies MA program at UCLA, I seek to engage in extensive learning and fieldwork that will cultivate my intellectual growth to become an Asian American Studies scholar, and ultimately a professor. My career goal to become a university professor reflects my inspiration for student learning. I believe it is at the university level that academics can uplift spirits and political consciousness of our youths—to power student to think critically, to ask relevant questions, and to organize and collaborate on solving difficult problems in our society.
Daisy Kim; 2nd year
I am a Bruin for Life, having completed my BA majoring in Women’s Studies and minoring in Public Policy. Immediately after receiving my undergraduate diploma, I parted ways with my background in non-profits and joined the corporate world at a large-scale pharmaceutical device company. As I settled into the corporate world structure and what it entailed, I realized that everything I learned of in my interdisciplinary undergraduate courses was playing out in the real world in front of my eyes: transnational flows of capital, geopolitical negotiations and its impact on policies that affect people of color, genders, and the various socioeconomic classes disproportionately became evident beyond reams of paper. It was a mild awakening, but it was enough to have me leave my job and apply for graduate school to explore the systematic structures more critically.
I ultimately settled on UCLA’s Asian American Studies program because it was the top program of its kind in the nation and had an extensive list of faculty members that I would want to work with. More importantly, it encouraged students to engage with and build upon resources outside the classroom and with community organizations and under-represented/under-served populations.
I entered the program wanting to focus my thesis projeect on the issue of the high percentage of uninsured and underinsured API communities and their alternative, transnational ways of accessing and negotiating for healthcare access outside of the U.S. From literature-based courses to studying adolescent psychology and mental health, I have been exploring widely in theory and in practice. My thesis project has made a sharp turn and I’m now examining Asian pop cultural crossovers (KPop) and its impact on existing and emerging Asian American (sub)cultures and the negotiations of transnational space and capital.
If my divergence can explain anything about the program, it is that students will be welcomed to explore various areas of research within Ethnic Studies, Cultural Studies, Transnational/Global Studies, and American Studies. I recently completed and returned from an internship program at a U.S. Embassy abroad and have yet to decide what I will be doing after completing the M.A. program later this year. most likely, I will be working on a research project or a career track that focuses on transnational geopolitics and trying to uncover ways to minimize the disparities and exploitations that often occur as a result.
Sophia Cheng; 1st year
Asian American Studies was my undergraduate major at Pomona College and now I’m at UCLA continuing my studies in the MA program! As an undergraduate, I originally wanted to study English or Philosophy—English because I like stories and Philosophy because I like to think about the Big Picture. I had never heard of Asian American Studies, or any Ethnic Studies, but I found that Asian American Studies is actually an ideal space to combine stories with “big picture” analysis. You link the experiences of your family and friends to a “big picture” view of immigration, labor, trade, and war. you understand how policy and large institutions affect your daily life—and at the same time, you learn our community’s history of struggle to challenge, and build alternatives, to these institutions.
After college, I worked at the Los Angeles Unified School District, Asian Pacific American Legal Center, and Southeast Asian Community Alliance. I returned to school to learn more about policy and regulatory processes affecting immigrant communities, like housing and jobs, and also to gain stronger research skills. My research is on the intersection of economic and environmental just organizing. As a case study, I’m looking at urban redevelopment in Los Angeles Chinatown and Lincoln Heights.
So far I’m very happy with the flexibility and support that the MA program offers. The cohort is small (our year has nine students), and my classmates and I support each other on basic things, from how to write a CV to more complex situations, like how to balance personal relationships and school.
After I finish the program in 2013, I would like to work for a community-based organization or worker center, and also teach at a community college or CSU. To anyone who is considering Asian American studies for undergraduate or graduate school — I say go for it! Asian American Studies and Ethnic Studies are unique because they were founded through student activism, with a commitment to social justice. UCLA has one of the top departments in the nation, and it’s important not only to take advantage of this resource, but to also push its sustained commitment to student activism and socially relevant teaching and research.