Asian Studies at UBC
For all of those who have spent many years working towards the creation of Asian Canadian studies at UBC, we are writing to pass on the happy news that last night, at the February 19, 2014 meeting of the UBC Senate, the new Asian Canadian and Asian Migrations Studies program was unanimously approved.
This program fulfils the third of three commitments made by UBC Senate in November 2011 to honour the 76 Japanese Canadian students who were removed from UBC in 1942. The first two commitments were fulfilled 2012, with an honorary degree graduation ceremony in May 2012, and oral history interviews with over a dozen of the surviving students from 1942 as part of a commitment from UBC Library to help preserve the rich history of Japanese Canadians and other Asian Canadian communities. In March, 2012, Dean Gage Averill committed the Faculty of Arts at UBC to the creation of an educational program that would ensure that the history of anti-Asian discrimination and racism that had led to the forced removal and exile of Japanese Canadians from the west coast would never be forgotten. After over 18 months of community consultations and meetings with faculty and students at UBC, a proposal was created for a new Asian Canadian and Asian Migrations Studies program. The UBC Senate vote last night has fulfilled the third remaining promise made in November 2011, and the new program will only be the first step in the goal identified in our extensive community consultations of expanding teaching, research, and community engagement that is relevant and important to Vancouver and Canada’s many Asian Canadian communities.
We would like to thank all of those who took part in the consultations and meetings that led to the creation of this program, and in particular UBC faculty member Dr. Christopher Lee for leading the proposal development and UBC staff member Denise Fong for coordinating the consultations and guiding the proposal through the UBC curriculum process. UBC students (now alumni) Noreen Ma, Jennifer Lau, Alejandro Yoshizawa, and Jennifer Yip helped shape the develop of the program in its infancy, and each year a group of dedicated students has continued pushing forward the process they began. Besides the Curriculum Committees in the Faculty of Arts and UBC Senate, the development of the new undergraduate program has received support from the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, from UBC Library (especially former Asian Library Head Librarian Eleanor Yuen and her staff), and many faculty and staff from across campus, as well as funding from the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and the UBC Centre for Community Engaged Learning (formerly Community Learning Initiative).
We wish to thank all of the students who have been so active in creating the foundation for the program. Over the last decade, in classes across UBC, students have been actively engaged in organizing community based projects that document and illuminate the importance of both historic and contemporary Asian Canadian communities in our society. In 2005, through the generous donation of over $250,000 from UBC supporters, the INSTRCC (Initiative for Teaching and Research in Chinese Canadian Studies) was launched, allowing UBC students to use the latest in digital technology to help collect and preserve the stories of our Chinese Canadian elders. <instrcc.ubc.ca> and <chinesecanadian.ubc.ca> After the honorary degree graduation ceremony in 2012, the Japanese Canadian students of 1942 generously donated to a fund that helped UBC students document the history of Japanese Canadian removal, and we hope that many more UBC alumni and community supporters from all of our diverse Asian Canadian communities will help grow this new program so that it serves all of the communities of Vancouver and British Columbia.
Alden Habacon of the UBC Provost’s Office and Shirley Nakata, UBC Ombudsperson for Students, will chair a newly-formed Asian Canadian Community Engagement committee that will make sure that the new program will play a leading role in expanding UBC’s engagement with Asian Canadian communities both locally and across Canada. Alden and Shirley were also the chairs of the campus-wide committee that so successfully implemented the three commitments made by UBC Senate to honour the Japanese Canadian UBC students of 1942, and so we look forward to working with them and the members of this new committee as we grow. We also anticipate the creation of a community advisory committee, and so welcome the participation of all of you who wish to help build and expand this new program.
This has been a long, and yet ultimately successful and productive process, and with the UBC Senate approval of the new program last night, a happy moment to take pause and to celebrate the culmination of years of hard work by so many devoted supporters. Much work remains to be done, but we sit at a moment of historical importance, as both UBC and the province of British Columbia acknowledge and continue to reckon with darker periods of its history. Even as we prepare our students for a more inclusive and equitable world than the one in which our parents and grandparents lived, we face the continuing challenge of struggling against the legacies and effects of injustice both old and new. We hope that through teaching students about how those in the past struggled against inequality and injustice and made a better world, this new program will help inspire new generations of students to do the same.
On behalf of the organizers and supporters of the Asian Canadian and Asian Migrations Studies program at UBC,
Prof. Henry Yu
Dept. of History, UBC
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Principal, St. John’s College, UBC
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