Emily Ye '20
Major(s): Psychology and Statistics
Hometown: San Antonio, Texas
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your academic and extracurricular interests, and your involvement in Asian American activism on campus.
My name is Emily Ye and I am a recent 2020 graduate from San Antonio, Texas who double majored in psychology and statistics. I became involved in Asian American activism on campus in my first year, when I joined what was then called the AAPI Studies Initiative. In my sophomore year, I joined the executive board of Amherst’s Asian Students Association (ASA) as the Co-Chair of Communications, and I helped rebrand the AAPI Studies Initiative to the current Asian American Studies Working Group. I served as the Co-Chair of ASA’s Political Committee and Co-Chair of the Working Group in my junior fall and continued to serve as ASA’s Communications Chair until my senior spring.
As former Co-Chair of the Amherst Asian American Studies Working Group, you have been a strong advocate for establishing an Asian American Studies program at Amherst. Why do you think Asian American Studies should be an essential part of college education?
Growing up in Texas, I had never read or heard about Asian American history beyond the two sentences about Japanese internment in my U.S. history textbook. It wasn’t until I came to Amherst College and was placed into the Reading Asian American first-year seminar taught by Professor Hayashi that I realized Asian Americans have been a part of U.S. history for centuries. From the first documented arrival of Asians to the U.S. in 1587 to the migration of laborers from Asia to Hawaiian plantations in the 19th and early 20th centuries to the waves of Asian professionals in the U.S. after the passage of the Hart-Celler Act of 1965 - Asian Americans have been present in this country for so long, and yet they remain invisible in our curriculum. College is often the first time students can take ethnic studies courses. For many Asian Americans, college presents an opportunity to learn about themselves and their history for the first time. Amherst prides itself on its open curriculum that allows students to shape their own education and intellectual growth. Establishing an Asian American Studies program at Amherst reaffirms students that the College not only values a diverse curriculum but also supports a diverse student body.
What is your proudest accomplishment on campus?
Finishing my thesis! It was a long and ambitious project, but I am very proud of the work and effort I put into the research.
Your senior thesis focuses on intergenerational differences in perceptions of the model minority and perpetual foreigner stereotypes among Asian Americans. What inspired you to research this topic, and what do you think our readers should know about it?
I actually knew in my sophomore year that I wanted to research this topic for my thesis. In my sophomore fall, I took “Model Minorities: Asian and Jewish Americans” with Professors Franklin Odo and Wendy Bergoffen. During our class discussions, I noticed that when my classmates discussed their families’ views toward the model minority stereotype, many of them held vastly different opinions compared to their parents, so I was interested in investigating these differences in perceptions. While I conducted research for my final project of that course, I found a lot of psychology studies related to the topic, although nearly all of them focused only on young, adolescent or college-aged 1.5- and second-generation Asian Americans. For my thesis, I decided I wanted to add to the existing body of research by also surveying older, first-generation Asian Americans. As far as I know, my thesis is the only psychology study that has looked at these intergenerational differences. I found that older, first-generation Asian Americans are more likely to believe in the model minority myth of achievement orientation (the false belief that Asian Americans are more hard-working and successful than other minority groups) but that they are less likely to believe in the model minority myth of upward mobility (the false believe that Asian Americans do not face structural barriers to upward social mobility) compared to the younger 1.5 and second generation. Although more research should be conducted, my thesis suggests that there are generational influences and trends that impact how Asian Americans view the model minority stereotype. Beyond the results, my thesis also suggests that research on the model minority stereotype is more complicated than previous studies have indicated and that Asian American psychology is a still-growing field.
How will your AAPI studies influence your post-college life and plans?
I intend to pursue a Ph.D. with a focus on social psychology in the future so that I can continue to build upon the research in Asian American psychology that I started with my thesis.
Speaking of post-college life, how is Covid-19 affecting post-college plans for the Class of 2020?
I am fortunate enough to be in the position where I am starting work on time (albeit remotely), but I have friends and peers whose start dates have been pushed back by months and those who have not yet found jobs. Any resources for short-term projects or job referrals for these grads by Amherst alumni would be greatly appreciated!
Congratulations on graduating! Is there anything else you want to say to our readers?
Thank you! Amherst alumni have a lot of power and influence - if you believe strongly in Asian American Studies, do not be afraid to voice your opinion to members of the senior administration and department chairs.