UMass Boston's Asian American Studies Program offers culturally-responsive instruction in the classroom with holistic practices of mentoring, community-building, service-learning, and advocacy to address the social and academic needs of students as well as the critical capacity-building needs of local Asian American communities. Featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education and highlighted by the Association of American Colleges & Universities as a national model, the program offers the most Asian American Studies courses, faculty, and community resources of any university in New England. The program's alumni include teachers, social workers, health care providers, business entrepreneurs, and leaders of local Asian American community organizations as well as the first Cambodian and Vietnamese refugees to complete EdM and EdD degrees at Harvard.
The immediate Boston neighborhood next to UMass Boston — known as Fields Corner, Dorchester — is home to the largest concentration of Vietnamese residents, organizations, and businesses in the Northeast and the fifth largest in the U.S. The second and fifth largest Cambodian communities in the U.S. are nearby in Lowell and Lynn, as are new Chinese residential and commercial areas in Quincy and Malden and the 130-year-old Boston Chinatown. Asian American students, many of whom live and work in these concentrated communities, represent 15 to 20% of UMass Boston's entering undergraduate class each year. By grounding its curriculum, teaching, and applied research in the realities of these dynamic local communities and by respecting the knowledge and bilingual/bicultural skills that many UMass Boston students bring to the classroom, the program creates powerful learning environments for all students to gain critical awareness and understanding about the historical experiences, voices, contemporary issues, and contributions of diverse Asian populations in the U.S.
The program collaborates closely with the university's Institute of Asian American Studies (IAAS) in relation to new course development, ongoing research and service-learning opportunities, speakers and special events, publications, and graduate/undergraduate student support. The program also collaborates with other UMass Boston academic and administrative departments, including Africana Studies, American Studies, Anthropology, East Asian Studies, Psychology, and Sociology in the College of Liberal Arts; the intercollegiate Latino Studies program; the Center for Immigrant & Refugee Community Leadership and Empowerment (CIRCLE) in CPCS; the Teacher Education programs of the Graduate College of Education; the Center for Collaborative Leadership and College of Management; the Center for the Improvement of Teaching, and many units of Student Affairs and Enrollment Services.
Graduate students from any area who have Asian American Studies interests can serve as teaching/research assistants, mentors to undergraduates, and special project developers for the program. High school students in UMass Boston's pre-collegiate programs such as Urban Scholars and those involved with the Coalition for Asian Pacific American Youth (CAPAY) — a nationally recognized youth leadership network sponsored by the Asian American Studies Program — are encouraged to take advantage of the program's learning opportunities. Community members and organizations as well as alumni participate in the program's activities in short- and long-term ways.
The program is open to matriculated students from any UMass Boston college, as well as to non-matriculated students. For matriculated students, successful completion of the program is recorded on official university transcripts. Non-matriculated students receive a certificate of completion that provides documentation of expertise that is especially useful for working professionals and practitioners in education, social work, community development, business, and other fields affected by recent demographic growth of the Asian American population.