Letter from the Department Chair


Welcome to Asian American Studies at UC Davis!


People often ask me, “what IS Asian American Studies anyway?”

I say, Asian American Studies is a field of study where students don’t just learn how to analyze social inequalities. It’s the field of study where students are encouraged to address social inequalities.


The fact is, Asian American Studies is something many people aren’t familar with. Asian American Studies—along with Ethnic Studies more broadly—was established in the late 1960s when students, faculty and staff of color, along with their white allies, stood up to challenge California higher education. They believed that higher education failed communities of color by barring them from admission into colleges and universities and for the small handful actually able to get in, denying them access to curriculum that reflects their histories and struggles in the United States and that equips them with the skills to uplift and advocate for their communities. The battle to transform higher education in this state was a highly contentious, even violent one, but ultimately, administrators first at San Francisco State University and UC Berkeley and not long after that, here at UC Davis, were forced to address the issues and problems that Ethnic Studies advocates were raising.


Asian American Studies, is thus a field of that was born out of a struggle for social justice and as such, it is a field of study that is completely distinctive from all of the traditional social science and humanities disciplines like History, Political Science, English, Psychology or Sociology. The way I would describe it is that to major in Asian American Studies is to major in social justice. Though our esteemed faculty are trained in many of these fields, what we do differently is that we don’t just supply our students with critical thinking skills to better understand the causes and consequences of different forms of injustice. We actively encourage our students to do something about those injustices.


UC Davis is just one of a small number of universities in the nation with an Asian American Studies (ASA) Department. I strongly urge you to take advantage of this the unique opportunity. Take ASA courses, seek out mentorship from our faculty and staff, and gain valuable experience working in or researching on the Asian-American community while you are here. If you care about social justice, consider majoring (or double-majoring) in Asian American Studies. Our alums have gone on to become doctors, elected officials, artists, educators, lawyers, and more. In different ways, they have used ASA knowledge and skills to advance the cause of justice for Asian Americans and all marginalized people. Join us! #staywoke #ASAUCD


Robyn Magalit Rodriguez, Ph.D.

Professor and Department Chair, Asian American Studies



History of the Asian American Studies Department


  • 1967 Professor Isao Fujimoto comes to UC Davis.
  • 1969 Brian Tom and Ray Yokomi call a meeting on the topic “The Asian Experience in America.” Professor Isao Fujimoto is one of the speakers. This leads to the formation of the Asian American Concern (AAC), a student organization that becomes the driving force behind the founding of Asian American Studies (ASA). AAC forms the ASA committee charged with starting an ASA program on campus. Brian Tom is elected chairperson of this committee, and key members include Art Mitsutomi, Joyce Ezaki, Bill Lum, Tom Wong, Lillian Galedo, Pat Yee, Joyce Sakai, Dave Mar, and Ed Chang, among others. The ASA committee meets with Chancellor Meyer, who expresses support for ASA. Brian Tom writes the ASA proposal calling for a New World College that would include the Departments of Ethnic Studies and Women’s Studies.
  • 1969 The first ASA course is offered during Spring Quarter as a 198 group study in the History Department. Brian Tom writes the class proposal and outline and teaches the class with the assistance of Tom Teraoka. Administratively, the class is sponsored by Professor J.P. Lo, with Professors Isao Fujimoto and Kenne Chang as informal co-sponsors.
  • 1969 June Otow leads a group of students on a field trip to the WWII Tule Lake Concentration Campsite in Modoc County.
  • 1969 Over 600 participants take part in the “Asian Experience in America” symposium sponsored by AAC.
  • 1969 The students of AAC are granted $29,000 from the system-wide Urban Crisis Committee to fund the Asian American Research Project (AARP), the first research project for Asian Americans in the country. AARP involves Isao Fujimoto, Brian Tom, and 17 student researchers including Art Mitsutomi, June Otow, Joyce Sakai, Lillian Galedo, Dave Mar, Joyce Ezaki, Terri Quilenderino, Bill Lum, Pat Yee, Tom Wong, and Wielund Wu. The team works over the summer to create curriculum materials for ASA courses developed from research on the Stockton Filipino community, the Sacramento Delta communities, Asian Contributions to California Agriculture, and bibliographies and course readers.
  • 1969 The AAC, along with the Black Student Union (BSU) and Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (La MEChA), hold a rally on the Quad to force Chancellor Meyer to approve an ethnic studies program on campus (after he backed away from his initially supportive stance). 5,000 students and faculty members attend, forming the largest political rally in Davis up to that time. As a result, Chancellor Meyer authorized the creation of the ASA program at UC Davis. Brian Tom is appointed coordinator and charged with writing course descriptions, teaching classes, setting up offices, and hiring faculty members and administrative staff. The ASA program is housed in the Applied Behavioral Sciences (ABS) Department. ABS rapidly gains a reputation as flexible, innovative, and receptive to new programs such as ASA.
  • 1969-70 The ASA committee becomes the ASA program committee, a joint student-faculty committee. It recruits faculty including Brian Tom, Leila Wing, George Kagiwada, Paul Wong, June Otow, Ben Tsou, Peter Leung, and Joyce Sakai. The first regular ASA classes are offered. Brian Tom teaches 3 of the 5 classes offered in the first year. Frank Chin and Patty Iyama teach the other 2 classes that year.


  • 1970 Professors Ben Tsou, George Kagiwada, Kenji Murase, and Minako Maykovich join the ASA faculty. Tsou teaches “Language Patterns of Asian Americans in Cantonese” and is the first tenure-track professor hired in the program. Kagiwada is hired second and teaches the introductory course. Murase teaches the Asian American Communities course, and Maykovich teaches the Asian American Experience course. Isao Fujimoto works with the latter two professors on their courses in addition to teaching his own.
  • 1970 ASA is fully established as an academic program on campus with faculty, offices, and staff in place and courses in the university catalog.  George Kagiwada becomes the first full-time director of ASA.  The ASA book collection is started.
  • 1971 The first Asian American Spring Festival is held. Robert Yoshioka and Jovena Navarro join the ASA faculty. Navarro teaches the first Asian American Women’s class.
  • 1973 Asian Pacific Culture Week (APCW), one of four university-sponsored cultural weeks, is created. The first annual APCW is held. The program is run by students and serves as a meeting place and cornerstone for the API community on campus.
  • 1977 George Kagiwada is awarded tenure after students, faculty, staff, and community members mobilize to support him in a protracted tenure struggle against the administration.
  • 1977 David Risling in Native American Studies (NAS), Peter Leung in ASA, and Isao Fujimoto in ABS are appointed as lecturers with security of employment.


  • 1983 Isao Fujimoto is the first recipient of the City of Davis Human Relations Award (Thong Hy Huynh Award).
  • 1984 The administration attempts to remove the ASA reading room.
  • 1989 Billie Gabriel is hired as ASA Program Coordinator. ASA, along with NAS and Chicano Studies (CHI), are moved from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences to the College of Letters and Science.


  • 1991 The Student Affairs Officer (SAO) II position is implemented into SPAC to serve as liaison to the API community and advisor for APCW and API student organizations. UCD alumnus Theresa Montemayor holds the position.
  • 1991 Professor Wendy Ho joins the ASA program as the first tenure-track addition in ten years, and begins teaching in Spring 1992. Brian Tom returns for a year as ASA coordinator to assist Director of ASA George Kagiwada.
  • 1992 The first annual ASA Senior Awards Banquet is held. Keith Osajima joins the ASA faculty.
  • 1993 George Kagiwada retires and Isao Fujimoto assumes duties as ASA director. Professors Darrell Hamamoto, Stanley Sue, Kent Ono, and Karen Shimakawa are added to the ASA program.
  • 1994 Keith Osajima leaves ASA to direct the Race and Ethnic Studies program at the University of Redlands.
  • 1996 Stanley Sue assumes directorship of ASA, bringing with him the National Research Center for Asian American Mental Health from UCLA. Under his leadership, Steffi San Buenaventura, Nolan Zane, and Bill Hing join ASA.
  • 1998 The APIA community celebrates the 25th annual APCW.
  • 1999 After 30 years, Asian American Studies is finally institutionalized as an official major.
  • 1999 Peter Leung, Senior Lecturer in ASA, passes away. Professor Leung was a member of the ASA faculty since 1970. He instituted a series of quarterly gatherings which contributed greatly towards building a sense of community around the ASA program. His central research focused on Chinese American oral history and he was a prominent leader in the Chinese American community in Sacramento.


  • 2000 As a result of a student-led movement involving letters, petitions, ASUCD Senate Resolution 19, and meetings with campus administrators, a Student Affairs Officer (SAO) III position is established in ASA to serve as a liaison to the API community and offer social, academic, and personal counseling, as well as referral and retention services to API students. The position allows for ongoing support and continued leadership within the ASA community. While the proposal for an SAO requested it be a full-time position, it was approved for only half-time status.
  • 2000 George Kagiwada passes away. He directed the ASA program for 23 years from the time he arrived at UCD in 1970 until his retirement in 1993. He was a pioneer in the fields of ASA and ethnic studies, and a tireless promoter for social justice and community activism.
  • 2001 CAPAA returns, reinvigorated by students, staff, faculty, alumni, and community members. CAPAA works alongside DARE, the Asian Pacific American Staff Association (APASA), the Asian Pacific American Alumni Association (APAAA), and the student community to address the needs of APIs on campus. They hold a rally to discuss the needs of the API community and expand the ASA program. Per their demands, the Asian American Specialist position in the Learning Skills center and the full-time SAO III position for ASA are approved.
  • 2001 Wendy Ho assumes directorship of ASA after being awarded the Chancellor’s Faculty Achievement Award for Diversity and Community in 2000.
  • 2002 Professor Steffi San Buenaventura passes away, and her family donates her Asian/Filipino American archival collection of primary documents, correspondence, publications, and photographs to UCD Shields Library Special Collections. Buenaventura joined the ASA program in 1999. Her research interests were in American ethnicity, immigration, history, race relations, social movements, religion, Filipino American history, Asian diaspora studies, and Philippine-U.S. relations.
  • 2002 Anita Poon becomes the first SAO in ASA. Professor Richard Kim joins the ASA program. A building at the Colleges at La Rue is named after Professor Isao Fujimoto. Kent Ono assumes directorship of the ASA program at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.
  • 2002 ASA celebrates its first graduating class and grants 4 B.A. degrees.
  • 2003 The first Asian American freshman Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) retention class is taught as a collaborative initiative between the Learning Skills Center and ASA. The first annual ASA Career Day brings 30 ASA alumni and community leaders representing careers in state politics, journalism, health, media, engineering, law, and education. They meet with current ASA students and discuss career goals.
  • 2003 Professor Stanley Sue is awarded the UC Davis Prize. Professor Bill Hing is awarded the UCD Distinguished Scholarly and Public Service Award. Professors Caroline Kieu Linh Valverde, Rhacel Parreñas, Sunaina Maira, and Susette Min join the ASA faculty.
  • 2003 ASA grants 23 B.A. degrees.
  • 2004 Bill Hing assumes directorship of ASA while Wendy Ho is on sabbatical leave. The UCD Asian American Community Directory is renamed the Asian Pacific Islander American Searchlight Directory (APIASD).
  • 2004 ASA grants approximately 50 B.A. degrees.
  • 2005 The ASA Internship at the Capitol for Asian Pacifics (ICAP) starts with the generous leadership of alumnus Bill Wong.
  • 2005 Wendy Ho returns as ASA Faculty Director. UCD alumna My Diem Nguyen joins the ASA department as SAO.
  • 2006 ASA grants approximately 40 B.A. degrees.
  • 2007 ASA becomes the department with the highest ratio of enrolled students to faculty. ASA now offers more than 25 different courses.
  • 2008 Professor Nolan Zane assumes directorship of ASA. My Diem Nguyen is awarded the 2007-2008 UC Davis Recognition for Outstanding Staff Advisor.
  • 2009 After 40 years of struggle, ASA becomes an official department at UCD. ASA hosts the Department of Asian American Studies Celebration. Paul Kim joins ASA and the CCC as Community Counselor.


  • 2010 Stanley Sue and Bill Hing retire from the ASA faculty.
  • 2011 Tenured Professor Robyn Rodriguez joins the ASA faculty. Sheng Vue replaces Kathy Entao as ASA Program Coordinator. My Diem Nguyen leaves her position as SAO/Academic Advisor.
  • 2012 Britt Sumida assumes the position of SAO. Tenured Professor Sarita See joins the ASA faculty. Donna Valadez joins ASA as Program Coordinator.
  • 2013 Fall Welcome is created with the help of Britt Sumida and Shyama Kuver.
  • 2013 Amanda Dunham joins ASA as Program Coordinator. Professor Richard Kim becomes Department Chair. Paul Kim leaves his position as Community Counselor to become Community Advising Network (CAN) Manager and Dr. Tatum Phan joins ASA as the second CAN Counselor. Professor Sarita See leaves her position as tenured faculty to transition to UC Riverside.
  • 2015 Joseph Nguyen joins the department as SAO.
  • 2017 Kirby Araullo joines the ASA department as Program Coordinator
  • 2017 Professor Nolan Zane receives the 2017 Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award from the Academic Senate in honor of his 25 years supporting community-based organzations that serve ethnic minority communities
  • 2017 Professor Darrell Hamamoto retires from the ASA faculty.