Project chronicles experiences of alums of Asian descent

Cornell’s Asian American Studies Program (AASP) has launched an oral history project—and it’s seeking alumni who are willing to share their stories. The goal: to explore not just the program’s genesis in the 1980s, but the on-campus experiences of students of Asian descent from the mid-20th century onward.

Led by history professor Derek Chang and supported through crowdfunding, the project kicked off in summer 2022—in conjunction with the 35th anniversary of the AASP, the oldest program of its kind in the Ivy League.

An oral history session was held at Reunion that year for the classes of the 1970s and 1980s, and again at Reunion ’23.

“We’re trying to capture the experiences of Asian and Asian American alumni, and the role they’ve played in the history of the University,” says Christine Bacareza Balance, an associate professor of performing and media arts and the AASP’s director.

“But we’re also tracking the history of the Asian American Studies Program—particularly, the things Asian American students were doing on campus prior to its founding.”

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Two people, dressed well in a 1940 historical photo
(Rare and Manuscript Collections) Students from Chinese diplomatic families in 1940.