The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a $1.2 million grant to Queens College’s Asian/American Center to launch a new program that will focus on studying the borough’s burgeoning Asian population, school officials announced Monday.
The Asian American Pacific Island Community Studies program is slated to begin next spring and will give students the opportunity to take newly developed and existing courses and participate in internships with Asian-American community organizations. Center officials expect the program to eventually be offered as a minor at the college.
Hong Wu, the center’s associate director, pointed out the announcement of the grant coincided with President Barack Obama’s trip to Asia and followed the election of City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) as city comptroller, the first Asian American to be elected to a citywide post.
“These historic events highlight the significance of our new Asian American Pacific Island Community Studies program,” Wu told a crowd of more than 50 people gathered in a Rosenthal Library conference room at Queens College Monday afternoon.
Madhulika Khandelwal, the center’s director, stressed the importance of studying Asian communities in Queens, noting Asian students make up 25.6 percent of Queens College’s undergraduate body — an increase of about 1.6 percent over last year. About 21 percent of Queens’ 2.3 million residents are Asian American.
“But this program is not meant only for Asian Americans,” Khandelwal said. “It’s for all students. We want students to know about a very significant part of the campus and communities they come from.”
The Asian/American Center was founded in 1987 as the first Asian-American research center east of the Rockies, and this is the group’s first foray into curriculum development.
As part of the AAPICS program, Khandelwal said the center will build an interdisciplinary curriculum with courses in all four academic divisions of the college, including social sciences, arts and humanities, math and natural sciences and education. The program will work closely with such existing programs as African Studies, Latin American Studies and American Studies, Khandelwal said.
There will be a wide variety of courses offered as part of the program, including a class from Urban Studies professor Tarry Hum on downtown Flushing, and program leaders said they plan to encourage students to work on community-oriented research projects. Additionally, students could be given the resources to attend related seminars and conferences in the city and throughout the country.
“This fits right into the core of what Queens College wants to be — a source of inspiration, guidance and direction for the community,” Queens College President James Muyskens said of the program.
Josephine Kim, a representative from Liu’s office; Susie Tanenbaum, community and cultural coordinator for Borough President Helen Marshall; S.J. Jung, president of the Minkwon Center in Flushing and a former Council candidate; and Christine Chiu, a World Journal editor, all praised the program.
“It will help to define how Asian Americans can connect with other ethnic groups,” Jung said.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson
©2009 Community News Group
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