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U. announces search to fill new Asian American studies professorship

A multidisciplinary search is currently under way for a senior tenured professor in Asian-American studies, according to anannouncement posted on Princeton’s Asian American Studies at Princeton blog.

Professor and activist Anne Cheng said that she feelsthe University is tremendously lucky to have the administration’s support in conducting the search. According to Cheng, having one more senior faculty member would help give the University a strong foundation as it develops a curriculum in Asian-American studies.The issue of a formal program in Asian-American studies has been contentious for decades.

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Assistant history professor Beth Lew-Williams, who is new to the University this year and will be teaching Asian-American history this spring, is looking forward to continuing progress.

“This is a multidisciplinary search, which means that a lot of different departments have agreed to host an Asian-American studies scholar, and I think that’s really important and shows support from different fields in the University for building an Asian-American studies initiative,” Lew-Williams said.

She said she definitely sees interest from students and from alumni for more courses in Asian-American studies.

“This has been pushed for so long, for about 40 years,” Lew-Williams said. “This has been a long time coming, and the current eagerness of students is key, but many generations of students have been fighting for this.”

Lew-Williams said one of the best ways for students to support Asian-American studies is by voting with bodies in the classroom and by continuing to sign up for these classes. She says the desire to hire a senior faculty member is a step in the right direction.

“If it’s just Professor Cheng and myself, there’s only so many courses we can teach, and we teach other things too, so that’s not a curriculum,” Lew-Williams said. “I think it’s a positive step towards building course offerings, but there’s more that has to happen institutionally before actual Asian-American studies is built.”

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Andrew Hahm ’17, the Asian-American studies chair of Princeton’s Asian American Students’ Association, also said the desire to hire a senior faculty member is an important step in building the department. He said he thinks that, right now, there’s a lot of momentum.

“If we continue to keep the momentum going and continue with the progress that’s happening, we’ll be closer to seeing stronger Asian-Americans studies here,” Hahm said.

AASA president Evan Kratzer ’16 said he is very hopeful for the near future and thinks a new senior faculty member will add to an engaged and enthusiastic academic community.

“Of course we hope the program develops sooner rather than later,” Kratzer said. “The important thing we’re concerned with, first of all, is making sure there’s a continuous supply of courses offered in Asian-American studies, and for this we need faculty,”

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Kratzer added he has seen a lot of students excited about this new development.

“There’s been a very positive student reaction to what’s been happening with Asian-American studies on campus,” he said. “The Asian American Studies Committee on AASA is set to grow because of an influx of students this fall. Students are taking advantage of the various resources available in exploring Asian-American studies.”

Dean of the Faculty Deborah Prentice and University spokesperson Martin Mbugua both deferred comment to faculty members when asked to speak on the subject. Prentice noted that she is entirely supportive of Cheng and the other members of the search committee.

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