The Asian-American Studies Program at Penn, commonly referred to as ASAM, has been transformative in my experience in college. The Program offers courses and activities in Asian American Studies, with a minor being the route for people who want a more established background in the field. Courses are interdisciplinary, ranging from sociology to English to history to folklore, all exploring questions of race and ethnicity in national and global contexts.
At Penn, the Program began in 1996 after joint student, staff, and faculty efforts. It is part of the broader wave of ethnic studies movements, which began in California in the 1960s out of student demands to see their histories and cultures represented in the classroom.
More recently, Drs. Fariha Khan and Eiichiro Azuma have been appointed co-directors of the Program, leading it to more faculty, more robust course offerings, and more opportunities for research and engagement. I am currently taking a course with Dr. Khan, South Asians in the US, and loving it!
The readings all feel directly applicable to my own life. I regularly share course materials with my family and friends and I learn more about myself and how I fit into the world with each class. As the course progresses, we will move into discussing current events and issues impacting the community, which I am excited about given how few opportunities there are to do so in an academic, informed environment.
In the past, I took Asian American Religion, which gave me a broader overview of the spiritual and religious lives of different communities and what they mean in different cultural contexts. It is rare to feel like a course was built for you, designed to answer questions you have about yourself, or structured to help you understand your family better. ASAM courses do that, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to take them. The professors are incredible, and do more than just teach—for many students, they are mentors, role models, recommenders, and advocates, too.
Even though I am a senior and the number of classes I have left to take is dwindling, I am so excited to see where the ASAM Program goes. I look forward to seeing it grow, and hopefully even have enough course offerings to be a major someday!