Saturday, April 21

Asian American studies graduates to major


By Julie Ann Silva

Daily Bruin Senior Staff

Asian American studies graduated this summer.

Beginning this quarter, students intrigued by Asian American
ethnic studies can major in the field whereas before only a
specialization was possible.

The new bachelor’s degree program comes after more than five
years of faculty and student planning and will complement UCLA’s
existing seven-year-old undergraduate specialization program. The
new program is also the much younger sibling of UCLA’s Asian
American studies master’s program, which has been offered for more
than 15 years.

"Student reaction has been ecstatic," said Meg Thornton, student
community projects coordinator for the Asian American Studies
Center.

Still, many students said the undergraduate major was long in
coming – 25 years after the establishment of the center.

"Its about time that the university (made Asian American studies
a major), considering the population," said Arnold Serrano, a fifth
-year senior majoring in history. "The university always prides
itself on its diversity and its multi-racial students.

"We’re seeing the legitimization of what Asian American studies
is at this campus," he added.

UCLA senior Alyssa Kang waited four years to declare a major so
it could be Asian American studies.

"I decided early that I would wait for the major," Kang said.
"(Asian American studies) is my area of interest and I felt it was
a very important, legitimate area of study. It was also very
personal for me as well."

This latest addition to UCLA’s major options will swell the
university’s curriculum. "We’re hoping to expand course offerings
and the number of classes in Asian American studies to 60," said
Enrique de la Cruz, assistant director for the center. There are
now about 45 course offerings in Asian American studies.

Some students said the benefits of a more diverse curriculum
will stretch beyond Campbell Hall – the location of the Asian
American Studies Center.

"Even students not majoring (in Asian American studies) will
benefit by a greater course selection," Serrano said. "Another
advantage is that we’ll get more faculty, hopefully. This helps
students because we can have mentors – people who work in the
academic field who can encourage us academically."

During the five-year time span of the major’s development, the
center’s faculty has already grown from five to 16, de la Cruz
said.

Coinciding with the increase of faculty is the growth of course
requirements. The requirements to receive a B.A. in Asian American
studies more than doubles the amount of courses needed to
specialize in that field, de la Cruz explained.

The major enables classes that focus on specific experiences of
different Asian Pacific American communities by looking at them and
focusing on their issues as well as on broad topics like civil
rights and public policy, de la Cruz added.

Many students supported the need for the major by pointing out
the advantages of ethnic and cultural study.

When fifth-year senior Maria Ventura studied history in high
school, she said she noticed the absence of Pilipino culture and
history in the curriculum.

"You wouldn’t think we’ve been here for a long time – we’re
always seen as immigrants, as outsiders," said Ventura, who double
majors in sociology and Asian American studies.

"(Ethnic studies) sensitizes you a lot. It makes you more aware.
Once you’ve studied one community you’re more sensitive to others,"
Ventura said. "With the new major, there will be more funding and
more choices in the classes that can be offered."

Professors and center administrators said they predict a large
interest in the Asian American studies bachelor degree. At the
spring Asian Pacific Islander graduation, more than half of the
participating students had a specialization in Asian American
studies, Thornton said.

"People have been coming in all summer long inquiring about (the
new major)," de la Cruz said. "There are five petitions for a
change of major on my desk right now and this is only the first day
of classes."

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