Curators' Notes

Curators' Notes on the Timeline

What to find here...

This page is dedicated to pulling back the curtain on the research and creative process behind the IUB Asian American Studies timeline project. Here you will find short notes from our curators about how and why they created the timeline, references to information found within the timeline's chapters, and more information about the Asian American Studies program at Indiana University Bloomington. 

It must also be mentioned that this endeavor would never have been brought to fruition without the support of the Indiana University Office of the Bicentennial, and in particular Jeremy Hackerd, Project Manager. Futhermore, we would like to extend our thanks to the faculty and staff of the Asian American Studies program who've aided in the management and creation of this project: Julia Mobley (Fiscal Officer, Asian American Studies), Dr. Angela Pao (Associate Professor Emerita, Comparative Literature), Dr. Cynthia Wu (Associate Professor, Gender Studies and Asian American Studies and Director, Program on Race, Migration, and Indigeneity), Dr. Joan Pong Linton (Associate Professor, English), Dr. Vivian Nun Halloran ( Professor, English and American Studies), and Dr. Jennifer Lee (Associate Professor, Sociology). 

Additionally, our team would like to thank the following people and groups for their support in getting this project off the ground: the Asian Culture Center (Director Melanie Castillo-Cullather, Program Associate Sarah Moon Stamey), Whitney Olibo (Administrative Services and Program Manager, Department of American Studies), Dina Kellams (Director, IU Libraries University Archives), Indermohan Virk (Executive Director, Patten Lecture Series and Poynter Center), and Michael D. McGinnis (Associate Dean Emeritus for Social & Historical Sciences and Graduate Education, College of Arts and Sciences).

Finally, we would like to thank the IU alumni who've striven to create and cultivate the Asian American Studies program here at IUB; special thanks to: David Chih (Class of 1990), Dr. Yuko Kurahashi (Class of 1996, PhD in Theatre and Drama), Dr. Vince Gotera (Class of 1989, M.F.A. in poetry, and 1992, PhD in English and American Studies), Nicole Lee (Class of 1997), Joon Park (Class of 1998), Dr. Jules Lin (Class of 1995), Dr. Susanna (Leung) Lin (Class of 1995), Khai (Truong) Yang (Class of 1997).

Stephanie Nguyen - The Researcher's Perspective

The AAST Digital Timeline is both a personal and political project.

Much of my U.S. history courses in secondary school excluded perspectives of Asian Americans and other marginalized communities. I did not learn about Asian American history until Professor Jennifer Lee, who took time out of her busy schedule, to conduct an independent study with me in spring 2013. I have been reading Asian American history books and foundational books ever since.

My self-study of Asian American history led me to my dissertation topic—a historical study of how students, faculty, staff, and administrators advocated for and established Asian American Studies programs at research universities in the Midwest.  My dissertation topic sprouted from a doctoral class project. Inspired by Professor Lee’s generosity and willingness to do an independent study with me, I chose to research the history of IUB’s Asian American Studies (AAST) program. For the class paper, I began at Indiana University Archives sifting through student organization documents and newspaper clippings. I also met and interviewed faculty members and alumni who advocated for an AAST at IUB.  The more I learned about the history of the program, the more I realized that few people knew about the struggles and successes of the Asian American community on campus.  Their story deserved to be told.

With the encouragement of my class professor (and now dissertation advisor), Andrea Walton, the class paper become a conference presentation.  The conference presentation became a dissertation.  In 2019, Ellen Wu approached me about the possibility of turning my research into a public-facing project through a grant with IU’s Office of the Bicentennial.  What started out as a personal project morphed into a political objective to ensure that people are recognized for their work and that history—both at IUB and nationally—remains open to multiple voices. I especially thank Ellen who has taught me so much about turning academic research into scholarship for the masses.  It’s easy to say that we—Ellen, Zack, and I—put a lot of love into this project.

Zack Hegarty - The Digital Humanities Perspective

History of all sorts has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. My education has been in the areas of Italian and Classical Studies with minors in a few other subjects such as Jewish Studies, History, etc. As such my interaction with Asian American history has only ever been brief and this project has thus become quite a rewarding one for me, personally. The most interesting and moving aspects of this project have been learning about the history of Asian Americans here at IU. From the grief of the attack on Won-Joon Yoon to the numerous successes of student activism, Asian Americans have enriched the life of the university at every turn. This has absolutely given me a new understanding of not only the Asian American Studies program at IUB but also the Asian American community more broadly.

On a more technical note, as it relates to the construction of the AAST Timeline, Ellen and Stephanie graciously brought me into the fold for my previous experience with Digital Humanities and web projects. However, none of us had ever created a public facing exhibit such as this. As such, the greatest obstacle to creating the timeline was our desire to not only create a rigorously researched piece but also something that would be decipherable and enjoyable for the interested public. To live up to those expectations we wanted to make sure there was an appropriate balance of visual/textual material coupled with a clean narrative flow through the timeline’s content. The ‘clean flow’ is why the timeline is divided into thematic chapters rather than being a strictly chronological number line of events. This blending of narrative forms, and for such a compelling set of material, made this project incredibly rewarding to me on both a professional and personal level. 

Ellen Wu - The Faculty Perspective

I see this IU Bicentennial project as a collective effort in caregiving. From the students and alumni who have labored passionately over the decades to create meaningful social and intellectual communities to the staff and faculty members who have joined wholeheartedly in these efforts—each person involved has assumed the role of caregiver. I feel very fortunate to have witnessed this caregiving from myriad angles. To Stephanie and Zack, thank you for devoting so much of your time and talent to document and deliver the story of Asian American Studies at IU in this compelling manner.  I hope that everyone who visits our timeline will takeaway just how much caregiving has made this endeavor possible. 


Like the revision of a major motion picture, the team had to leave a lot of content on the editing room floor. It’s difficult to select which national, regional, and local events should be celebrated on this digital timeline.  Because this project is funded by the Office of the Bicentennial focuses on Indiana University’s program, the team selected national historical events that influenced the creation of our AAST and the Asian American Studies field.  We chose national events to prioritize AAST’s focus on intersectionality, including the relationship between Asian Americans and African Americans in all its complexities. We invite you to visit the Reference page on this digital timeline to check out scholars, activists, journalists, and bloggers who have written extensively on these events.

For IUB’s AAST chapters, the team relied on a multitude of primary sources to construct the history of our program: student organization documents, Indiana Daily Student newspaper clippings, oral history interviews, program documents, and email correspondences.  We especially thank Indiana University Archives and the Asian Culture Center for helping us locate AAST documents as well as staff, students, faculty members, and alumni who shared their personal collections with us. 

When choosing what to highlight on the digital timeline, the team wanted to recognize people first.  The program is possible because of the tireless dedication and collective effort of students, faculty, staff, and administrative advocates.  Second, we highlighted the program’s major “firsts” such as our earliest courses and programming that became annual traditions. Finally, we selected milestones—especially in IUB’s program maturity chapter—that reflected AAST’s focus towards interdisciplinary, intersectionality, and campus outreach.

Reference Documentation

Click on a chapter header below to look at the references documentation pertaining to that chapter.


This timeline was compiled between November 2019 - June 2020 and first published to the web on 30 June 2020. All images not cited are not intended for redistribution. For more information please contact IUB Asian American Studies.