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The UNC Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Working Group hosted a teach-in at the Global FedEx Center on Nov. 19 to explore the histories and struggles of the implementation of ethnic studies at institutions of higher education in the United States and at UNC, specifically. In addition, the group examined the history of past AAPI students at Carolina. “This teach-in was originally an idea from the Asian American Studies Working Group at Duke University, which is [also comprised of students],” explained Jennifer Yang, a junior majoring in Political Science & Peace, War, and Defense at Carolina. “Different working group organizations from [various] universities decided to host teach-ins to inform anyone interested in the history of ethnic studies in general and how ethnic studies fit into the context of each respective university.”

At UNC-Chapel Hill, five students in the AAPI Working Group researched the history of Asian American students, Asian American activism efforts and advocacy for Asian American studies. “We went through the Wilson Library Archives and primarily got our information through the East Wind magazine archives, which was an Asian/Asian American-centered [publication] run by students from 1993-2006,” Jennifer noted. “Ultimately, we tied all of our research into how the history is relevant today and why our organization advocates for Asian American studies at our institution.”

Data from the NC Justice Center showed that between 2000 and 2010, North Carolina’s Asian American population grew by 85 percent, the fastest among Southern states and the third fastest in the country. Yet, although 18% of the UNC class of 2022 identify as Asian/Asian American, only two courses in Asian American topics are being offered at UNC in Spring 2019. These discrepancies support the AAPI Working Group’s concerns about the lack of a representative curriculum at UNC. “Our goal is for [the creation and implementation of] an Asian American Studies program that will offer a minor,” Stephanie said. The four universities in the Southeast that currently offer an Asian American Studies/Program are University of Texas-Austin (est. 1999), University of Florida (est. 2004), William and Mary (est. 2016) and Duke University (est. 2018).

“Much of the response and feedback we received from participants – which included undergraduate students, graduate students, non-UNC students, faculty and staff members – was positive and expressed further interest,” said Yang. “We plan to prepare more data through surveys directed at students and student organizations, and obtain general data through meetings with Dean Kevin Guskiewicz and the Senior Associate Dean for Social Sciences and Global Programs, Dr. Rudi Colloredo-Mansfield and then host another teach-in [during the Spring 2019 semester to further examine the possibilities.”

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