The Asian & Asian American Studies Certificate is an interdisciplinary program consisting of eight courses that provides students with (1) a thorough understanding of both Asian and Asian American histories, experiences, and contemporary issues and (2) multi-disciplinary and multi-method research, analysis, and critical thinking skills, both of which prepare students for the increasingly diverse, globalized, and interconnected world of the 21st century.
Statement of Solidarity with Palestine
The Asian & Asian American Studies Certificate Program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people and their struggles against historical and ongoing forms of injustice. We endorse and want to amplify the statements that have already been publicized by the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, the Association for Asian American Studies, and the Students for Justice in Palestine at UMass Amherst that detail the forced evictions, destruction of property, violence, and other forms of racism, settler colonialism, and oppression, particularly since May 2021. We also acknowledge the many previous and ongoing efforts at UMass Amherst and the Five Colleges, including from the Resistance Studies Initiative and numerous student groups, faculty members, and campus programs. We join them and many others in urging our political and educational leaders and everyone to fully commit to supporting freedom, justice, equality, and dignity for the Palestinian people.
Statement on Anti-Asian Racism, Xenophobia, and Gender-Based Violence (March 2021)
We stand against racism in all its forms. Since the start of the COVID pandemic, StopAAPIHate.org has reported over 3,800 incidents of harassment, bullying, verbal assault, and violence against Asians and Asian Americans, with many more going unreported. Data shows that hate crimes against Asian Americans have increased 149% from 2019 to 2020 while overall hate crimes declined by 7%. With the latest spike of anti-Asian hate since the start of 2021 and especially in the aftermath of six Asian American women (and two white victims) killed by a white gunman in Atlanta on March 16, 2021, the Asian & Asian American Studies Certificate Program (AAASCP) at UMass Amherst condemns the specific nature of anti-Chinese and anti-Asian racism and xenophobia, which does not happen in isolation from ongoing forms of structural racism, injustice, and inequality.
These historical patterns of racism and xenophobia are based on constructions of Asian Americans as the Yellow Peril, or some form of political, economic, cultural, and/or public threat to U.S. society and specifically to the white population. They are fueled by mis/disinformation, conspiracy theories, and rhetoric from political leaders and high-profile personalities through such terms as the "Chinese virus," "Wuhan virus," or "Kung-flu," and all highlight how racism against Asians is ingrained in this country’s history. The killings of six Asian American women in Atlanta specifically highlight the misogyny, sexualization, and fetishization of Asian American women and how these are fueled by toxic masculinity. Mainstream media and popular culture further racialize and sexualize Asian women, heightening their vulnerabilities to interpersonal and institutional violence. In fact, the StopAAPIHate data shows that women report hate incidents 2.3 times more than men. These hateful acts have forced Asians and Asian Americans, particularly elderly Asians who are perceived as easy targets, into a constant state of hyper-awareness and vigilance when they are in public, taking a huge emotional toll.
Anti-Asian racism has never occurred in isolation and is always connected to other and existing forms of structural racism and inequality. We see this in the significantly dire impact of the current pandemic on other minoritized communities, particularly the ongoing assault on and overcriminalization of Black people, the systematic neglect and injustices targeted toward Indigenous communities, immigrants from Latin America, and workers in vulnerable positions. Understanding the interconnections and intersections of these forms of institutional racism, we must commit to addressing the specific needs of the Asian and Asian American community as part of a broad commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion for all.
Our hearts and deepest condolences go out to all those who have been affected by these acts of anti-Asian hate and we join them in collective grief, sadness, and anger. We urge our political, community, and institutional leaders, to center the needs of the most vulnerable members of our society, including those who already feel marginalized and face everyday challenges in their lives due to sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, religious intolerance, and other overt and covert forms of prejudice and discrimination. We ask all members of our institutions and communities to commit to building a more inclusive, equitable, and just society and respond with action to address anti-Asian racism and xenophobia.
We call on all members of our society, but particularly our leaders in local, state, and federal government and institutions of higher education, to:
- Commit institutional resources to fight racism, xenophobia, and all forms of discrimination, such as homophobia, transphobia, sexism, religious intolerance, undocumented status, and ableism, and to keep these forms of discrimination from becoming normalized.
- Allocate resources to educate about the historical and contemporary structures of racism and xenophobia in the U.S., especially support for courses, faculty, and programs/departments focused on Ethnic and Women’s Studies, such as UMass Amherst’s Asian & Asian American Studies Certificate Program; Department of Afro-American Studies; Native American and Indigenous Studies Certificate Program; Center for Latin American, Caribbean, Latinx Studies; Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies; the Fine Arts Center’s Asian and Asian American Arts and Culture Program, and East Asian Languages & Cultures Program.
- Resources and support for centers and programs that support students, staff, and community members, such as UMass Amherst’s Yuri Kochiyama Cultural Center, the Malcolm X Cultural Center, the Josephine White Eagle Cultural Center, and the Latinx American Cultural Center; the Asian and Asian American Residential Community, the Women of Color Leadership Network, the Partnership for Worker Education, Workplace Learning & Development, and Building Bridges.
In anticipation of hate incidents if/when they occur, we also call on university administrators to develop and implement clear and centralized protocols, comprehensive “best practices,” and provisions of support for those who are directly targeted or feel unsafe or threatened, and that addresses the academic, emotional, physical and material costs to those affected and that also take into account the need for responses that are attentive to the particularities of specific incidents and concerns. These include:
- Designating clear point people and centralized protocols to respond to any forms of racism and hate that impact our communities (particularly international Asian and Asian American undergraduate and graduate students) and provide timely and integrated support for:
- Immediate needs such as emergency/temporary housing and meals, and accessing healthcare, mental health and other support services
- Physical safety protection if needed, including move-out from or to on- or off-campus housing
- Liaison with university offices and town police on developing alternatives to disciplinary and criminalizing responses in favor of community-centric approaches
- Serious consideration of implementing a program or form of mandatory anti-bias training for all students that includes understanding individual- and institutional-level dynamics related to privilege, and various forms of inequality and injustice, including but not limited to racism, sexism, class stratification, homophobia, transphobia, religious intolerance, undocumented status, and ableism.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the UMass campus to continue with remote instruction and programming for the 2020-2021 year, but the AAASCP was able to implement several organizational improvements, collaborated with numerous departments and offices on important programs and activities, and graduated a healthy number of students (below) who completed the Certificate:
- Emily Adji, Concentration in Asian Studies
- Olivia Gebski, Concentrations in Asian Studies
- Elizabeth Paez, Concentrations in Asian Studies
- Austin Shifman, Concentrations in Asian Studies
- Lily Tang, Concentrations in both Asian Studies and Asian American Studies
- Jordana Townsend, Concentrations in Asian American Studies
They all worked very hard throughout their courses and particularly with their Senior Seminar capstone projects. Completing the Certificate is an important accomplishment and one that they should definitely feel proud of, particularly given the challenges of these past three semesters. It is students like these who sustain the AAASCP and help make it vibrant and dynamic. We wish them the best of luck as they graduate, start the next chapter of their educational journey or their careers, and bring their knowledge and wisdom to their own communities.
The 2020-2021 year included many other highlights. To begin, the AAASCP made two significant organizational additions. The first was the creation of an Executive Advisory Board (EAB). The EAB's mission is to provide input on principles, strategies, and other matters pertaining to the administrative and academic work of the AAASCP and promoting its ongoing success, and to assist the AAASCP is building collaborative relationships with departments, programs, and offices on campus and beyond that will contribute to furthering academic success, equity, and inclusion. I am very excited to finally formalize this EAB and to be able to draw on the individual and collective expertise of each member.
The second major organizational addition to the AAASCP is the creation of a Program Staff (pictures below) of ten highly energetic and committed undergraduate students, most of whom are fulfilling this role as part of UMass's internship program in which they earn three credits a semester for roughly nine hours of work each week. Their duties include fundraising for the AAASCP, serving as ambassadors for the AAASCP, promote the Certificate to the undergraduate student population at UMass Amherst, and build ongoing partnerships and collaborate on AAASCP-related programming with RSOs, the Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success (CMASS), the Yuri Kochiyama Cultural Center, Asian American-themed Greek organizations, UMass offices and programs and at the other Five College campuses, and with organizations in the larger surrounding communities.
The creation of both the EAB and Program Staff have already proven to be extremely valuable additions to the AAASCP and have allowed us to significantly expand our outreach and programming, even given the constraints of remote teaching and other activities. In fact, issues related to the pandemic continue to be a central focus for the AAASCP. For example, after the significant increase in the number of anti-Asian acts of harassment, abuse, assault, and violence since the start of pandemic and especially after the hate crime murder of six Asian American women in Atlanta on March 16, 2021, the AAASCP collaborated with several departments and offices in organizing several Zoom panels and seminars that included a mix of faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, alumni, and community members, including:
- "Perspectives on Covid-19 and Anti-Asian Bias and Xenophobia" panel on Sept. 23, 2020
- "Asians Are Not a Virus" panel on March 29, 2021
- "Showing Up with Asian and Asian American Folks: A UMass Amherst Community Forum and Dialogue on Building Solidarity" event on April 5, 2021 with 271 attendees, including Chancellor Subbaswamy giving welcoming remarks
- "#IAMNOTAVIRUS: Sharing our Stories" panel on April 19, 2021
- "Take a Stand: Building Black & Asian Solidarity" workshop on April 23, 2021
- "We Are Not Invisible" panel on April 27, 2021
Each of these events were important opportunities for participants to share our academic expertise and personal experiences with each other and with the audience, and to reinforce our commitment to collaborating with each other to mutually support our programs and our communities that are facing many political, economic, and cultural challenges. In connecting what we teach in the classroom to address real-world challenges, we honor and reinforce the power of higher education to make a meaningful difference in the everyday lives of vulnerable members of the community.
As part of these events focused on addressing anti-Asian hate, the AAASCP released a "Statement on Anti-Asian Racism, Xenophobia, and Gender-Based Violence (March 2021)" and a comprehensive list of Educational and Support Resources on Anti-Asian Hate to educate and support all members of the UMass Amherst community and beyond in dealing with the individual- and institutional-level dynamics of anti-Asian hostility and violence.
Other AAASCP events included the third annual Asian American Film Festival on April 10-11, 2020 and featured films about Vietnamese American women in the nail salon industry and social activism within the Asian American LGBTQ+ community. The AAASCP also conducted its first Alumni Discussion and Networking event on March 3, 2021, in collaboration with the Asian American Students Association, in which almost 70 attendees heard from several AAASCP alums on how the Certificate benefited their lives and careers. The event was a big success and a great way to affirm the mission of the AAASCP and to build closer relationships with all participants going forward. Other events and programs throughout the 2020-2021 year included:
- "Kristina Wong for Public Office" (Oct. 2020), "Stitch 'n Bitch with the Auntie Sewing Squad" (Feb. 2021), and "Kristina Wong: Sweatshop Overlord" (Mar. 2021), all in conjunction with the Asian & Asian American Arts and Culture Program
- "AAPI Trivia ParTEA" event on Feb. 22, 2021
As we continually impress upon our Certificate students, as U.S. society becomes increasingly culturally diverse and globalized, those who have a detailed understanding of different racial/ethnic groups, of international socioeconomic issues, and multi-methodological and interdisciplinary research and analytical skills -- all of which the AAASCP gives them -- will have a competitive advantage in their studies at UMass, in whatever career they enter once they graduate, and in applying their knowledge as community leaders in 21st century U.S. society.
A History of the Program
By the mid-1990s, three significant trends became increasingly prominent across many colleges around the U.S. -- (1) a recognition of the growing importance of globalized international affairs, particularly focused on Asia; (2) the political, economic, and cultural growth of the Asian American population; and (3) demographic trends and a large increase in the number of Asian and Asian American students enrolling in college. As a reflection of these developments, many students and scholars pushed for the expansion of Asian Studies and Asian American Studies at their campuses.
In the late 1990s, students at UMass Amherst engaged in numerous forms of activism, including protests and occupying the administration building, to demand the creation of an Asian American Studies program. Their efforts successfully culminated with the creation of a new joint undergraduate program in Asian and Asian American Studies in the spring of 2000. Since then, the Asian & Asian American Studies Certificate Program has graduated close to one hundred students from diverse personal and academic backgrounds who have gone on to apply their knowledge and skills in numerous careers and pursuits.
As U.S. society becomes more diverse, multicultural, and globalized, and in the context of the cultural and economic emergence of Asian countries such as China and India, the Asian & Asian American Studies Certificate gives students the opportunity to learn about the interconnections between two similar but unique sets of histories, cultures, and issues -- Asia and Asian America.
With course offerings and faculty specializing in numerous academic disciplines, the Certificate is designed to give students (1) an understanding of different Asian and Asian American ethnic groups and the range of historical, political, economic, demographic, and cultural issues related to their experiences and (2) interdisciplinary and multi-method research and learning skills to communicate and collaborate across cultures. In turn, these skills will give the student a competitive advantage in both their studies at UMass and in whatever career they enter once they graduate.
Please refer to the menu on the right for links to more information about the Asian & Asian American Studies Certificate, including requirements to complete the certificate, frequently asked questions, and an updated listing of courses that count toward the certificate. For additional information, please contact:
C.N. Le, Director
Department of Sociology
Thompson Hall 828