Expanding Perspectives

Supporting the Asian American Studies Program


Understanding the experiences of Asian Americans

The Asian American Studies Program (ASAM) promotes the interdisciplinary study of the historical and contemporary experiences of Asian immigrants and people of Asian ancestry in North America and the diaspora. With an undergraduate minor, a variety of course offerings, research opportunities, programs, and special events, ASAM provides a deeper understanding of the ways in which race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality structure the political, economic, and social lives of Asian Americans. Now in its 25th year, ASAM is forging a path of intellectual leadership in the field, with renewed commitments from the School of Arts and Sciences and in collaboration with new faculty and students from across the University.

Engaging Students

Penn is one of the few Ivy League institutions to offer both a program and an undergraduate minor in Asian American Studies. The interdisciplinary minor draws on the richness of the liberal arts, bringing together critical approaches from the humanities and social sciences to explore the constitution of Asian American subjectivity in history, sociology, anthropology, politics, art, film, and literature.

In addition to pursuing the minor, undergraduate students can apply for the ASAM Fellows Program, whichprovides students with comprehensive academic training in archival research, methodology, and theory to enhance their critical thinking and writing skills. Students conduct original research in order to complete independent research projects that strengthen their knowledge of Asian American studies and identity in a global context.

ASAM features a range of speakers through the Food For Thought lecture series.

Programs and Events

The Asian American Studies Program, in partnership with the University’s Undergraduate Advisory Board (UAB) and the Graduate Asian American Students Association (GASAM), sponsors special programs, conferences, workshops, and events including academic talks, reading groups, film screenings, and performances. Among these programs, ASAM sponsors two ongoing speaker series: informal talks in our “Food for Thought” program and scholarly lectures in our “Asian America Across the Disciplines” program.

Disrupting Asian American Feminisms Symposium

Faculty and Leadership

ASAM is co-directed by Eiichiro Azuma, Professor of History, and Fariha I. Khan. Azuma specializes in Asian American history with an emphasis on Japanese Americans and trans-Pacific migration, as well as U.S. and Japanese colonialisms and U.S.-Japan relations. His award-winning books include Between Two Empires: Race, History, and Transnationalism in Japanese America. Khan’s research focuses on South Asian American Muslims, Pakistani American culture, and the Asian American community. She has served on the Pennsylvania Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs.

The program currently has a core faculty of three professors and four lecturers. ASAM is rapidly expanding, with searches underway that may soon bring four additional faculty members to the program.

Eiichiro Azuma, Professor of History and Asian American Studies; Josephine Nock-Hee Park, Professor of English


Giving Opportunties

The giving opportunities described here provide pathways to support the leadership and vision, expand the mission, and enhance the impact of Asian American Studies at Penn. All gifts are payable over five years.

Support Vision and Leadership

Inspire the community with a Challenge Fund of $250,000

As the Asian American Studies Program celebrates its 25th Anniversary, new energy is growing around building a foundation of support and providing opportunities for the program to enhance its scholarly mission. A gift of $250,000 would establish a Challenge Fund, aimed at inspiring new donors to leverage their philanthropic support by contributing to the vision of the Program. Each gift, matched by the Challenge Fund, will provide discretionary support for ASAM to put into action its plans, while building a community of partners for the future.

Endow and name the Asian American Studies Faculty Directorship with a gift of $2 million

Endowing the ASAM faculty directorship with a gift of $2 million will associate the donor’s name with the program in perpetuity and help to leverage the University’s strengths and resources across disciplines to promote socially conscious scholarship in the field.

Expand Mission and Access

Establish a named Program Fund with a term gift of $50,000 or endowed gift of $100,000 or more

A gift to establish a Program Fund would provide critical operating support for the priorities of ASAM. These funds allow the program leadership to respond to emerging needs and support opportunities for research, outreach, and learning with discretionary funds. Examples of priority items for the program currently include: 

  • Funding the “Welcome Back” lunch, attended by over 300 students this year.
  • Supporting the Undergraduate Advisory Board with funding opportunities for student engagement, mentoring, and learning.
  • Providing expanded course offerings in sought-after topics, including exploring courses in business, the arts, new media, and technology.
  • Welcoming guest speakers and hosting premier lectures and events to engage the broader Penn community in understanding the topics and issues most important to the Asian American community.
  • Establishing a Community Programs Fund to build outreach programs and connections for our students and the greater Philadelphia Asian American community.
Endow a Named Lecture or Event Fund with a gift of $150,000 or more

A gift to endow a named lecture or event would make it possible to offer additional annual programming featuring prominent speakers on a range of topics. Guest speakers are particularly sought in the areas of cultural literacy in business; creative writing; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and topical issues.

Support Undergraduate Students through the ASAM Fellows Program

Undergraduate research grants allow students to participate in research opportunities, including travel to pursue or present original research, and allow ASAM to recognize and invest in exceptional students.

  • A $25,000 term gift supports five years of research support for one student fellow per year. An endowed gift of $100,000 supports one undergraduate research grant per year in perpetuity.
  • A $75,000 term gift supports a cohort of 4-6 students a year for five years. An endowed gift of $300,000 supports a cohort in perpetuity.

Honor Exceptional Work and Invite New Voices

For standing faculty members who have achieved great distinction, there is no higher honor Penn Arts & Sciences can bestow than an endowed professorship. This recognition universally acknowledges the work of accomplished teachers, mentors, scholars, and thought leaders. It lifts them to new levels of renown and effectiveness, and encourages bold, inventive research. Endowed professors, at all levels, have the School’s strongest expression of support and through their teaching and research extend the School’s influence beyond campus.

Visiting scholars, artists, and practitioners complement the substantial expertise of our faculty. These positions create opportunities for our students to learn from a wider spectrum of talented, passionate people and for our faculty to work alongside experts who otherwise would not be at the University.

Endow a Professorship with a gift of $3 million

Endowing a professorship in perpetuity ensures that, for generations to come, a succession of academic pioneers will hold this named position, advance knowledge in their fields, and leave their marks on the most pressing issues of their times.

Endow a Visiting Professorship with a gift of $1.5 million

Visiting professors are prominent scholars from other universities who are invited to join the School for a semester or academic year. Through research and teaching, they engage our students and faculty, supporting cross-university collaboration and knowledge-sharing.

Endow a Named Lectureship with a gift of $1 million

A named, endowed lectureship with a focus on Asian American Studies curriculum opportunities would have a ripple effect across the program by enhancing courses that appeal to both the broad student community and heritage learners and create opportunities for deeper, more engaged learning. Funds would provide support for courses in the discipline, and a named lecturer would be recognized.

Invest in the Discipline

A cluster search, involving multiple departments making hires in the field, is under way. This search will allow the School to build its collective strength in Asian American studies and in the study of race and inclusion more broadly. It is the first major faculty recruitment effort in support of the School’s Anti-Racism Initiatives announced in late 2020.

The Asian American studies cluster search will bring a mix of junior- and senior-level scholars in the social sciences and humanities and will be focused on addressing pressing needs within this field, building a long-term pipeline of faculty leaders for ASAM and enhancing the overall strength of the appointees’ home departments.

Fund a Faculty Fellowship with a term gift of $500,000

Faculty fellowships accomplish the same goal as an endowed professorship but on a temporary basis and are integral to the School’s ongoing effort to pursue scholars who focus on big ideas and generate collaboration across the disciplines. A term gift of $500,000 would support one hire in the cluster search, and in recognition of a donor’s generosity, the hire supported by their gift would be known as Donor’s Name Fellow for the five years following their appointment at Penn.

Fund a Postdoctoral Fellowship with a term gift of $400,000 or endowed gift of $1.5 million

Postdoctoral fellows join Penn as early-career scholars. Fellows have the opportunity to pursue their own research, as well as to support graduate and undergraduate student work, collaborate with faculty, and help to organize program events. A term gift of $400,000 supports one fellow per year for five years; an endowed gift of $1.5 million supports one fellow per year in perpetuity.


To learn more about supporting the Asian American Studies Program, please contact Deb Rhebergen, Vice Dean for Advancement, at drheberg@sas.upenn.edu.