The history of Asian American Studies at IU chronicles significant contributions of students, staff, and faculty to the university’s mission to 'create, disseminate, preserve, and apply knowledge.’  

What is Asian American Studies?

Asian American Studies is a multidisciplinary field of study that grapples with the pressing questions of identity, belonging, and power from the perspectives of Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Asian/Pacific diasporic histories, communities, and cultures.  Since its emergence out of the 1960s-1970s social movements, Asian American Studies has aimed to create knowledge that is relevant and useful for solving big problems of inequity and injustice.  Scholars, practitioners, and students approach these puzzles from a variety of disciplinary perspectives spanning the arts, humanities, and social and behavioral sciences.  Indiana University Bloomington’s Asian American Studies program (AAST) established in 2007, maintains this vision through our research, creative activity, teaching, and programming with the goal of generating novel possibilities for the globalizing world of the 21st century.

Why does Asian American Studies matter to Indiana University?

The history of Asian American Studies at IU chronicles significant contributions of students, staff, and faculty to the university’s mission to “create, disseminate, preserve, and apply knowledge.” Asian American Studies thrives as a robust way to embrace diversity and its potential for community engagement.  Those who supported the establishment of Asian American Studies between the 1980s through the 2000s recognized its generative possibilities for embodying this three-fold promise. Asian American Studies continues to matter to Indiana University because it provides a unique entry point for exploring big challenges in our world today.

Yet, because of Indiana’s stereotypical image as a Midwestern stalwart, the story of Asian American Studies at IU is little-known beyond those who directly pushed for its creation. This timeline tracks the program’s evolution and documents this vibrant facet of Indiana University’s story. We hope that this project energizes the future growth of Asian American Studies throughout all the IU campuses.

Explore the Timeline

Click on the chapter buttons below to dive into the timeline and explore Asian American Studies here at IU and around the nation. Each section is both specific to a period of time and also to one of three general themes concerning the Asian American experience at a national, regional, and local level.

National Background

Asian American history spans hundreds of years. It includes so many monumental moments that have shaped the world.  For this timeline, we select historical events have most directly shaped the teaching and research of Asian and Pacific Islander communities at various levels.  We start our national timeline in 1965 with the passing of the Immigration and Nationality Act that unexpectedly reshaped Asian American immigration and concludes with the resurfacing of anti-Asian discrimination amidst the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic and the global Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

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Regional Formation

Regional history shows how local organizations influence and adapt to national events.  Within this chapter timeline, we select regional events surrounding the formation of Asian American Studies in the Midwest. We commemorate the activism of Midwest students, faculty, and staff who have championed and built Asian American Studies efforts at their home institutions.

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Student Activism

As early as 1988, Asian American students voice the need for campus resources to support and celebrate the growing Asian American student population at Indiana University. Due to Asian American students’ persistence, ingenuity, and activism, Indiana University launches the IU Asian Culture Center in 1998 and the Asian American Studies Program in 2008.

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Program Building

This chapter illuminates both the visible and invisible work of students, faculty, staff, and university administrators who built IU Bloomington's Asian American Studies program. IUB’s AAST acknowledges the significant contributions of its university, Bloomington, and Midwest allies.

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Intellectual Maturity

This chapter highlights IUB’s AAST transition from program building to one of growth.  During this period, AAST expands its programming, courses, and research into new areas of inquiry, creative expression, and interdisciplinary exploration.  Centering on intersectionality, AAST amplifies its programming collaborations with several campus partners including Latino Studies and Native American/Indigenous Studies under the Race, Migration, and Indigeneity (RMI), an ethnic studies-type program officially established in March 2020.  Today, IUB’s AAST program maintains its vision through research, teaching, and programming to generate novel possibilities for the globalizing world of the 21st century.

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References and Curators' Notes

Pull back the curtain! This page contains all the information you might want to get an idea of how our project was conceived and produced, along with notes from our team, and references to materials you find on the site.

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About us

Stephanie Nguyen

Stephanie T.X. Nguyen is a PhD student (Higher Education, Dept. of Educational Leadership and Policies) in the School of Education at IUB. She earned her BS (Business Administration) at University of Notre Dame in 2009 and MSEd (Higher Education and Student Affairs) from IU in 2014. Stephanie is the researcher and exhibit curator for the AAST Digital Timeline.


Zackary Hegarty

Zack Hegarty is currently a Ph.D. student in Informatics in the Luddy School at IU Bloomington focusing on Virtual Heritage. In addition to degrees in Classical Studies (BA, MA), he has been focusing on digital humanities projects for most of his academic career. Zack is the digital content coordinator and web designer of the AAST Timeline's online presence.

Ellen Wu

Ellen Wu is Associate Professor of History and Director of Asian American Studies at Indiana University Bloomington. Among her degrees, she earned her BS (Biology) and BA (History) from IU in 1996. Dr. Wu supervised the creation of the Asian American Studies Digital Timeline with generous support from the Indiana University Office of the Bicentennial.