top of page

july 2019

congrats 2019!
AAPI At Amherst
Asian alumni day
theses of note
reflections on aapi conference

Congrats Class of 2019!


On Sunday, May 26, 2019, 484 students graduated from Amherst College. Approximately, 5,000 families and friends were in attendance.


All photos © Amherst College 2019 

Senior theses of note

Senior Theses of Note


ShoYoung Shin, American Studies

My thesis, Bathroom Reading Material: A Cultural Analysis of Power, Access, and Mobility, explores the bathroom as a sociopolitical site of power and control in three case studies: Japanese American concentration camps, the rhetoric of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation "Reinvent the Toilet" initiative, and NYC taxi and for-hire drivers' lack of restroom access due to the inadequacy of public infrastructure coupled with poverty-level wages. I introduce the themes of power, access, mobility, and discourse through a discussion of bathroom accessibility at Amherst College against the historical backdrop of national legislation centering on separation and accessibility.


These case studies examine the extent to which power controls people even at the most basic level of going to the bathroom. Furthermore, they reveal how marginalized people experience these spaces and how the bathrooms represent them in their own narratives. These stories from the bathroom relate to fundamental human rights and the mechanisms of control that pervade both public and private space.

After graduation, I will be in New York City as an Immigrant Justice Corps Community Fellow, providing legal representation to community members in Korean. I always welcome conversation; please do not hesitate to contact me at

For her thesis, Sho was awarded The George Rogers Taylor Prize and jointly awarded The Doshisha American Studies Prize with Deborah Lynn Newmark and Ludia Ock. 


Ludia Ock, American Studies

My thesis, Caring for ‘Invisible Asians’ in the Korean Transnational Diaspora, examines some of the historical, political, and legal factors surrounding Korean American transnational adoptions. While the care adoptees receive in the transracial adoptive home can be well intentioned, my thesis emphasizes how this care can also anonymize and hurt the adoptees.


The history of transnational adoptions can be traced back to the Korean War, when religious groups in the US sought to “save” children who were in need of stable homes. However, the children who were on the receiving end of this care were a part of what some scholars have termed the “empire of babies”, which emphasizes the parallel rise in Korean American transnational adoptions and US imperial ambitions.


My thesis seeks to problematize rescue narratives surrounding Korean transnational adoptions and stresses the sociopolitical consequences of natal alienation that has the goal of assimilation. Finally, my thesis surveys memoirs and documentaries that highlight transnational adoptees’ distinct voices, proposing how these works shift our methods of caring away from “saving” and towards “seeing” the unique subjectivities of adoptees.  


I may be reached by email at I will be in South Korea for a few months after graduation to collect memories and histories of 20th century Korea as told by senior citizens and Korean transnational adoptee-returnees through the support of Project for Peace.

For her thesis, Lydia was jointly awarded The Doshisha American Studies Prize with Deborah Lynn Newmark and ShoYoung Shin. 

Student Activism

Student Activism: Update on the AAPI Studies Initiative

The AAPI Studies Initiative met with Biddy in April 2019 to receive an update on the status of Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) requests submitted for Asian Americanist professors last fall. 

Unfortunately, both the History and Sexuality, Women's & Gender Studies (SWAGS) departments were denied their FTE request to hire an Asian Americanist faculty member. The only humanities FTE request that was approved was for the Religion Department with the remaining FTEs going to STEM and social science departments. This means that no new Asian Americanist professors are on track to be hired.


According to Dean Catherine Epstein, both History and SWAGS did not present compelling enough arguments and had different, conflicting visions for the position. The Amherst College Committee of Educational Policy, therefore, has decided to conduct a self-study and external review of Asian American Studies next year to identify “the strongest scholars” and “the most exciting work being done” in Asian American Studies. This Committee plans to convene the Asian Americanist professors on campus for the self-study and then bring in an external panel for the final review, which may include University of Michigan Asian American Studies professor and Amherst alum, Ian Shin.


Both Professor Robert Hayashi and Professor Pawan Dhingra have indicated to us that they are disappointed with this outcome and that an external review may not be the best way to move forward. However, all the Asian Americanist professors did meet with President Martin and Dean Epstein at the end of the semester about this forthcoming external review.


If the external review happens quickly and early enough, departments could resubmit FTE requests to be considered next spring, but Dean Epstein could not guarantee this timeline. The AAPI Studies Initiative can aid this review, and the AAPI Studies Initiative will encourage President Biddy Martin and Dean Epstein to schedule the external review as early as possible. The Initiative will be in touch with History and SWAGS to let them know that the group is still very interested in resubmitting FTE requests in the next round. The Initiative also met with the English department earlier in the spring, and the department indicated very positive interest in submitting an FTE request for Asian Americanist scholar.

When the Initiative met with President Martin and Dean Epstein, they agreed that Asian American Studies is important, but also wanted to point out that with the hires of Professor Dhingra and Professor Bolton, Amherst College has “come a long way” compared to three or four years ago.

The Initiative is disappointed with this outcome, but it will continue its advocacy next semester. The group will meet with President Martin and Dean Epstein and the external review board, and encourage student enrollment in the fall for Asian American Studies courses.

the 2nd biannual Amherst Asian Alumni Day

asian alumni day

Amherst Then & Now Panelists; from left to right James Kwak '22, ShoYoung Shin '19, Harith Khawaja '19, Siraj Sindhu '17, and Anthony Chan '72.  © Amherst College 2019, photo by Jiayi Liu

On Saturday, April 6, 2019, the Asian Students Association, South Asian Students Association, and Korean Students Association partnered with the Office of Alumni and Parent Programming to host the second biannual Asian Alumni Day.


This year, there was a reception in the new Asian Community Space, a faculty panel with Professors Franklin S. Odo and Sony Coranez Bolton, an alumni and student panel, and a networking dinner.


Keynote remarks were given by Kathy Chia ‘88 P’22, co-founder and principal of Desai Chia Architecture, which has received numerous national accolades for authentic and sustainable building and design strategies. The new Chief Student Affairs Officer, Karu Kozuma, also provided some remarks during the dinner, reflecting on his first year at the College.


This event marked an exciting year at the College for Asian American students and alumni, given the opening of the new Asian American student space that has provided a needed space for community organizing and student activities.

Click here to see more pictures from the event! 


Key note speaker Kathy Chia '88, P '22, Amherst College Trustee Emerita.  © Amherst College 2019, photo by Jiayi Liu

It was such a pleasure to return to Amherst for Asian Alumni Day.  I met so many students and alums who each had a unique story to tell about their journey to Amherst, and where they hope to go (or have already gone) from here — being able to share stories and understand how we can encourage and support each other made our Amherst bonds even stronger.

-Kathy Chia '88 P'22

reflections on conference

Reflections from the National AAAS conference

Shawna Chen ‘20, Tara Guo ‘20, Emily Ye '20, Angela Zhao ‘21, Sabrina Lin ‘21, and Jia Jia Zhang ‘22 attended the 2019 Association for Asian American Studies Conference from April 25 to 27, 2019 in Madison, Wisconsin. This annual meeting hosted Asian Americanists from disciplines and regions across the country. Sabrina reflects on her experience: 

Attending the Association for Asian American Studies Conference has been one of the most meaningful learning experiences I've had during my time at Amherst. I spent half my time being starstruck by all of the amazing scholars there and the other half attending panels that were not only relevant to the academic Asian American Studies work I do, but also to the activism I'm involved with on campus.


The panel, "Negotiating White Supremacy, Neoliberalism, and Racialization: Asian American Education in Community Spaces", was very relevant to the education-related sociological research I conduct for Professor Pawan Dhingra. It was also relevant to my own research that I have been conducting for the Asian Americans and Affirmative Action class I am currently taking with Professor Franklin Odo. For this class, I am specifically investigating how WeChat, a popular Chinese social media app, cultivates discourse on affirmative action in Chinese immigrant communities. This panel confirmed that WeChat is a highly important platform for spaces of ethnic supplementary education, such as Chinese-run test prep centers. 


I also attended an undergraduate-moderated panel on Asian American Studies activism on campus across the nation. Representatives came from Williams College, Duke University, Oberlin College, and the University of North Carolina amongst other institutions. This panel discussed the ways other groups have strategized around similar issues currently being discussed by the AAPI Studies Initiative at Amherst. It was so gratifying and inspiring to see what thriving Asian American Studies scholarship could look like at similar institutions.

One highlight from the trip was meeting Professor Ian Shin '06, an Amherst alum and Asian American Studies professor at the University of Michigan. It was inspiring to talk with someone who had carved his own path in Asian American Studies at a time when there was even less curricular representation at Amherst! Most of all, I was blown away by his unconditional support and generous wisdom not only as a supporter of the AAPI Studies Initiative, but simply as an Amherst alum. Seeing how deeply he cared about the Amherst community definitely strengthened my own sense of pride for Amherst. 


Most importantly, attending this conference reminded me that there is always more work to be done to make Amherst a place that I can truly be proud of. Of course, being able to spend time with the five other AAPI Studies Initiative members who were on the trip was also invaluable, and we made many unforgettable memories together.


- Sabrina Lin ' 21



Fall 2019 AAPI studies

Robert T. Hayashi, Associate Professor of American Studies

AMST-208: Asian Pacific American Sports: Clever Headers and Warriors

Why were media and fans so surprised by NBA player Jeremy Lin's success? Asians had proven their athletic prowess well before Lin picked up a basketball. Similarly, why do observers of American football explain Pacific Islanders’ overrepresentation in college and professional football in terms of innate physical traits? Colonial expansion across the Pacific spread American economic and cultural influence, transforming native sporting practices and spurring a transnational flow of athletes, fans, and their communities. This dynamic explains, in part, the prominent role of Pacific Islanders in today’s NFL. Yet, significant societal barriers have limited the opportunities and visibility of Asian Pacific Americans in sport. In this course, we will study the diffusion of Western sports in Asia and across the Pacific, the development of Asian Pacific American sports in Hawai’i and the mainland, and the increasing transnational nature of sports to gain a greater appreciation for Asian Pacific American sports and its historical contexts. 


Franklin Odo, John J. McCloy '16 Visiting Professor of American Institutions and International Diplomacy, and Wendy H. Bergoffen, Lecturer in American Studies

AMST-345, SOCI-345:Model Minorities: Jewish and Asian Americans

The United States has long struggled with challenges created by the need to absorb ethnic and racial minorities. In the face of seemingly intractable problems, one solution has been to designate a “model minority,” which then appears to divert attention from the society at large. Earlier in the twentieth century, Jewish Americans played this role; today, Asian Americans are the focus. This course examines specific instances in which Jewish Americans and Asian Americans both embraced and rejected the model minority stereotype. Course units will also examine the underside of the model minority stereotype, quotas imposed to limit access to education and employment as well as social and legal actions taken in response to such restrictions. The course will feature a range of materials, including plays, fiction, journalism, and visual works. Students will read scholarship in the fields of American Studies, Sociology, History, and Critical Race Studies.


Franklin Odo, John J. McCloy '16 Visiting Professor of American Institutions and International Diplomacy

AMST-372: Asian American History: Key Turning Points

This seminar examines six major events that fundamentally impacted the history of Asians in the United States. Several of them involved egregious actions by the US government that prompted official apologies from later administrations, the only such cases in American history: the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893, and the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans in 1942. The others events include Asian Americans and the Cold War, the Asian American Movement of the 1960s and 70s, and the Model Minority Paradigm from the 1960s to the present. Throughout, this seminar examines the ways in which memory is made or obscured and the ways in which public history institutions, especially the important national agencies, including the Smithsonian, the National Park Service, Library of Congress, and the National Archives along with documentaries, historic landmarks, and websites, have played a role in public understandings of the events included in this course.

sony bolton.jpg

Sony Coranez Bolton, Assistant Professor of Spanish

SPAN-361: Chino: Asian Américas

This course will explore the literature and culture of the Asian Américas – the diasporic and national literatures in Spanish of those of Asian descent in the Americas. We will explore the historical reasons for Asian migration to the Americas as the political result of liberal abolitionism. Thus “Asian American” identity will not be studied in isolation; we will explore how mestizaje, blackness, and Eurocentrism shaped Asia in the Americas. We will prioritize texts in Spanish. Some secondary materials will be assigned in English. Class and assignments will be conducted in Spanish.

Community Profiles

Communty Profiles
47947126906_8acf7dfb03_k (1).jpg

Dr. Franklin Odo is the John J. McCloy Visiting Professor of American Institutions & International Diplomacy at Amherst College. Read his full interview here.

My knowledge of Asian Studies and the histories of Korea, Japan, and China,  were replete with stories of resistance, revolts, and reactions against authoritarian rule. This knowledge helped us understand that Asian American stereotypes were not an inculcated DNA kind of thing and that we were not bound by a culture of obedience. 

          -Dr. Franklin Odo

ShoYoung Shin is an activist, leader, and recent Amherst College graduate. Read her interview here

As they are with any identity and community, the experiences of Asian Americans is nuanced and extensive. My time at Amherst has provided me the language and context to explore more of this identity, and I know that I want to continue to learn as I begin my post-Amherst journey. 

          -ShoYoung Shin, AC '19

shoyoung shin.jpg

interesting reads

Interesting Reads

FDR's Japanese Concentration Camps, The Good Immigrant, and Spencer Quong '18 interviewing poet Ocean Vuong... Explore our interesting reads of the season


Thanks! Message sent.

bottom of page