This winter quarter at Cal Poly, I am teaching ENGL 346: Ethnic American Literature with a significant service-learning component. My students will partner with one of four local nonprofit organizations, the San Luis Obispo chapter of Literacy for Life, the El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO), the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County (SLO Food Bank), and the San Luis Obispo Noor Foundation, to create blog posts, newsletter articles, and other forms of written media that promote the important work that these organizations are doing in the community. The goal of this project is for students to engage in community work while applying rhetorical skills to promote social justice.
Today, representatives from each partner organization visited our class to talk about the services that these nonprofits provide. Students had an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the various programs and efforts run by these organizations. After hearing from each representative, my students signed up to work with one of these organizations. By the end of class, all of my students were matched with the organization of their choice and excited to get started on their service-learning project. Below is a picture of me posing with the four representatives who visited our class.
Yesterday I had the incredible honor of meeting Dolores Huerta, the legendary civil rights activist, labor organizer, and co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association (now the United Farm Workers). Dolores was visiting Cal Poly to give a talk about her experiences as an activist for over 50 years fighting for labor, civil, womxn, and LGBTQIA rights. The public talk took place in the evening, but I was fortunate enough to meet her before then at the President's Diversity Awards ceremony in the afternoon, which I had been invited to attend as a finalist for the President's Faculty Diversity Award. During this award ceremony, Dolores gave a few remarks about the importance of staying committed to promoting diversity on campus. It was inspiring to hear her speak during this award ceremony, as well as during her public talk later in the day, in which she emphasized the importance of organizing as a community in the fight against injustice. Below is a flyer advertising Dolores' talk and a photo of us together. I hope to emulate her fierce and loving spirit in all of my future endeavors!
In Fall 2017, I was awarded a fellowship sponsored by two Cal Poly organizations, the Center for Service in Action and the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology, to design and teach a service learning course during the 2018-19 school year. I teamed up with Grace Yeh, a professor in the Ethnic Studies department, to re-design two of our courses that are most similar in content, my Ethnic American Literature course and her Global Origins of U.S. Cultures course. Since then, we have been hard at work envisioning our service learning projects and reaching out to different non-profit organizations in the San Luis Obispo community to learn about their services and propose a possible partnership.
This morning the Center for Service in Action put on a showcase to celebrate our efforts. All of the faculty fellows were asked to create a poster describing the vision for our course re-designs that we could display during the showcase. I found this exercise extremely useful for helping me to identify and articulate the central goals of my course re-design. The showcase was a success, attracting many visitors and giving all of us fellows an opportunity to see how each other's course re-designs are coming along. I am getting excited to put this service learning course into action, which will happen in Winter 2019, when I am next scheduled to teach Ethnic American Literature.
I just returned from the 2018 Association for Asian American Studies Convention in San Francisco, CA, where I had a very exciting experience. As I was presenting my paper, "'We Lacked Allies': Searching for Cross-Cultural Solidarity in May-lee Chai's Hapa Girl," I looked out into the audience and saw none other than the very author whose work I was presenting on, May-lee Chai herself! Her presence struck me as a gift, as it was incredibly humbling and exciting to meet and chat with the brilliant mind who created Hapa Girl.
After the panel was over, May-lee and I talked for quite a while; I was delighted to discover that she is not only intelligent and talented, but also warm and friendly. I know that we will continue to stay in touch, and I hope to invite her to Cal Poly to meet with my students when I teach one of her books in the future.
Yesterday was a very exciting day at Cal Poly. All across campus, faculty, staff, and students participated in the second annual Inclusion Starts With Me Teach In, which is a day of programming dedicated to topics related to diversity, inclusion, and social justice. The day's events culminated in a talk by the renowned author and scholar Viet Thanh Nguyen, who spoke about his Pulitzer Prize-winning debut novel, The Sympathizer (2015).
I contributed to the Teach In by co-facilitating a workshop on critical refugee studies with my colleague Maggie Bodemer, a lecturer in the history department who specializes in the history of Southeast Asia. We chose this topic to honor Nguyen’s presence on campus, since many of his recently published works explore the impact of the war in Vietnam on Southeast Asian refugee communities. The workshop was a great success, attracting several dozens of students and faculty and prompting robust discussion about the field of critical refugee studies, as well as the history and memory of the war in Vietnam. Here is a full schedule of all the Teach In events.
After facilitating this workshop, I had the incredible honor of meeting Nguyen during a small meet-and-greet with a few students and faculty members. I have long admired Nguyen’s work as one of the foremost scholars in the field of Asian American literary studies. I remember reading Nguyen’s first monograph, Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America (2002), with great interest as a Ph.D. student. This past year, I was riveted as I read The Sympathizer, which recounts the history of the 1975 fall of Saigon and its aftermaths from the perspective of a communist spy in the South Vietnamese army. You can probably imagine how excited I was to meet the mastermind behind these great works in person!
In anticipation of Nguyen's visit to our campus, I assigned the students in my Asian American literature course this quarter a couple of stories from Nguyen’s recently published short story collection, The Refugees (2017). My students were thrilled to learn that they would have the opportunity to meet the author of the stories they were reading this week. I am grateful that my students were able not only to read and discuss these wonderful literary works in my classroom, but also to hear directly from the author himself, who was able to enrich their understanding of the material by providing even more insights about his writings. Below is a flyer for Nguyen’s talk and some photos that were taken during the event.
I am delighted to share that my latest research article, "Chicano Gang Members at Risk: Containment, Flight, and an Alternative Vision of Sociality in Luis J. Rodriguez's Always Running," was published today in the Spring 2018 issue of MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States (volume 43, issue 1). You can read the abstract and download the full article with institutional access here.
Check out this page for periodic updates about my research, teaching, and community work.