History

Video: Originating Moments, Envisioning Futures, Celebrating 10 Year Anniversary, 2009

The Asian American Studies Program was established in 1999 as a result of student protest, including a hunger strike. 2015, marked the 20th anniversary of the hunger strike. The program commemorated this important event through student activism and performances to honor the Program’s growth into a nationally renowned academic center for the study of the Asian American experience.

The creation of the Asian American Studies Program as a minor in WCAS began in 1995 with intense student lobbying. A proposal to establish Asian American Studies was submitted to the Office of the President in February 1995 by Asian American Advisory Board (AAAB), a student organization dedicated to this issue (letters of response from the Offices of the President and Dean below.) In April 1995, AAAB, along with other concerned students, organized a student hunger strike that lasted twenty three days. They demonstrated their principled stand, showed student strength and attempted to pressure the university to establish the Asian American Studies Program. The hunger strike not only raised awareness and support from Northwestern University students, but also from students from campuses all across the country. Northwestern, along with Columbia, Princeton, University of California, and Brown, were being challenged by students demanding Asian American Studies and Ethnic Studies at their campuses. Four years later, in 1999, the Asian American Studies Program was established as a minor in WCAS with two core faculty members. In June 2001, the first AAS minor graduates were Tammy Leung and Vishal Vaid in June 2001.

On February 24, 2016 the proposal for an Asian American studies major was approved at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences faculty meeting. This proposal was presented by three core faculty members from the Asian American Studies Program, Professors Ji-Yeon Yuh, Nitasha Sharma and Shalini Shankar. The proposal came in light of recent student demands for the major as well as 20 years of campus activism pushing for its addition. The major will officially be an option for all students at the start of the 2016-17 academic year.

The program currently consists of three core faculty, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and lecturers who offer over 20 courses on topics such as Asian American History; Asian/Black Relations; Asian American Literature; Asian Americans and Popular Culture; The Mixed Race Experience; Asian American Women's History; Race and Globalization; Asian American Religions; South Asian American Experience; Asians in Cinema; Language, Race, and Ethnicity in the U.S.; Studies in Race, Gender, and Sexuality, and more.