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About the program

The APA Studies program was founded in 2004, after 20 years of student, staff and faculty advocacy. The program is a vibrant, active center for all members of the MSU community interested in the experiences of Asian Pacific Americans.

The APA Studies program also makes connections with local Michigan and Midwestern APA communities. The APA population in Michigan is rapidly growing, with increasing numbers of students enrolling at MSU. Between 1990 and 2010, Michigan’s APA population more than doubled, and the state now has the second largest APA community in the Midwest. 

Focusing on migration, globalization, and diaspora, the APA Studies program provides opportunities to explore the future of diversity in a global era. The program’s attention to Michigan APA populations—many of whom maintain transnational connections to their homelands in Asia—allows for the exploration of the local effects of global processes. Given the role of Asia and Asian immigrants in the new global economy, APA communities are key starting points from which to examine processes of globalization that impact the changing face of US diversity.

APA Studies at MSU explores the history and literature of Asian Pacific Americans and expands on these areas with strengths in the social sciences, particularly anthropology, sociology and psychology. This social science perspective facilitates the study of important contemporary transformations in US society and the Asian diaspora, strengthening the university’s mission to foster global awareness and citizenship through community research, teaching and outreach.

Program History

Before 1990, advocacy for Asian American Studies at MSU originated from the Asian American student community, primarily from APASO (Asian Pacific American Student Organization), later working with APAAFSA (Asian Pacific American Faculty Staff Association, now called APIDA/AFSA, the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American/Asian Faculty Staff Association) to formally lobby for Asian American Studies initiatives.

In 1991, Roger Bresnahan, Professor of ATL (now WRAC), approached Maggie Chen (who was working as the APA Student Coordinator in the Office of Minority Student Affairs) to see if there might be students who would be interested in taking an Asian American studies course. As a result, in the spring of 1992, 18 students signed up for an independent study course, ATL300, co-taught by Roger Bresnahan and Maggie Chen. This very first Asian American studies class at MSU was a general survey class of Asian American studies, covering literature, history, and socio-political issues.

In Spring of 1995, HST319 Asian American History became the first regularly scheduled Asian American studies course; its first professor, Dr. Victor Jew, was the first faculty member hired specifically to teach Asian American studies. Since then the number of Asian American studies courses have continued to grow, including both regular courses and specially focused sections of larger courses.

In Fall of 2004, MSU approved an interdisciplinary specialization in APA Studies, allowing students to focus on Asian Pacific American studies while pursuing another major.

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