History

Department History

The Department of Asian American Studies at UCSB was the very first academic department dedicated to the study of Asian Americans at a major research university, and the first department in the United States to offer a Bachelor of Arts degree in Asian American Studies. The Department was founded by Professor Sucheng Chan, a pioneer in our field. Over the years, the Department has consistently offered students the opportunity to study and understand the experiences of Asian Americans, particularly their histories, communities, and cultures. Our students learn to evaluate the existing literature on Asian American communities, to analyze a variety of data on Asian Americans, and to conduct original research. Professors in the Department offer courses informed by approaches from the traditional disciplines, including sociology, law, education, psychology, and literature, as well as from interdisciplinary scholarship in women's studies, law and society, public policy, global studies, cultural studies, and film and media studies.

Although the Department offers a wide range of courses through multiple approaches, we share a common commitment to progressive scholarship of the highest caliber. We also share a commitment to engaging directly issues of inequality, both in United States history and in our own time. To that end, the lower division courses offer a thorough introduction to Asian American history and culture, primarily to show how migration from Asia has profoundly shaped life in the United States at least since the mid 19th century. The upper division courses further explore Asian American contributions to literature, art, culture, and film and performance, in addition to Asian American struggles for political equality, opportunity, and fairness. These courses also highlight contemporary issues facing Asian American communities, issues that require leadership and meaningful intervention. As Asian American communities continue to grow and develop, we hope that our students will be better prepared to play an active role in confronting the many challenges faced by all of us living in a multiracial, multicultural world.

Students with a bachelor's degree in Asian American Studies may pursue a wide range of career choices. As interdisciplinary majors, students will be exposed to several substantive areas of knowledge and multiple approaches to learning. These should provide a substantial basis for success in any number of careers immediately after graduation. In addition, students are encouraged to consider further graduate studies in literature, history, sociology, and other traditional disciplines. Students are also encouraged to consider professional programs, such as in film production, law, public policy, public health, education, business, and social welfare. Please consult with individual faculty members who work in these fields for any additional advice. For counseling on academic and career options, please consult our Faculty Undergraduate Advisors, Professors Diane Fujino, Xiaojian Zhao, and John Park. Their office hours will be posted at the beginning of each quarter. For issues regarding course scheduling, declaring a major or minor, or other administrative matters pertaining to the Undergraduate Program, please contact Elizabeth Guerrero, our Undergraduate Advisor. For all other Department business, please contact Arlene Phillips, our Department Manager. 

For a list of courses for the current academic year, please click here. For updated News and Events, please click here. The photo of the Chinese Detention Building at Angel Island comes from the American Memory Collection in the Library of Congress.