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Asia in the American Midwest

Enhancing Diversity, Visibility, and Connectivity through Digital Learning

Abstract

Forging interdisciplinary collaborations with colleagues from departments of Asian studies, history, political science, and information technology at St. Olaf College, this project aims to produce interactive and interdisciplinary digital modules for teaching the unique Asian American experiences and histories of the Midwest, which often differ from the established narratives from the East and West Coasts.

The 2010 U.S. Census indicates that Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial group in the United States, with a 47 percent increase in growth in the Midwest since 2000. Unlike their coastal counterparts, however, the Asian population in the Midwest, especially in the rural areas shared with most of our ACM liberal arts colleges, has been largely overlooked in extant literature and research. The "invisibility" of Midwestern Asians poses a challenge for educators, which, in turn, invites new approaches to addressing concepts and content in the teaching of Asian American issues across various disciplines.

This project will bring key issues of diversity, visibility, and connectivity among Asian Americans in the Midwest to the forefront of classroom discussions on American society, history, race, culture, identity, and nationalism across many humanities and social science courses.

The initial stage will cover four thematic modules: "Lives of the Japanese American in the Midwest during World War II," "Indochina War diasporas and relocations to the American Midwest," "Hmong cultures and communities in the Midwest," and "Midwestern Chinese entrepreneurship and the American Dream."

These digital teaching/learning modules can be used in a variety of humanities and social science courses on the St. Olaf campus and eventually on other ACM campuses.

Note: Content adapted from project proposal.

Goals

Updated Feb 05, 2016

St. Olaf College strives to be an inclusive community, respecting those of differing backgrounds and beliefs. As dialogues about race and justice in America intensify, educators ought to foster better understanding and higher social awareness on our campuses and in our classrooms. This is not just a "black and white" problem, either metaphorically or literally. The challenge is to gain better understandings of history, minority group experiences, power, and cultural empathy.

This interdisciplinary digital project will advance three aims which support the college mission in this regard:

  1. Developing a global perspective;
  2. Learning about all the communities the students join in their lifetime; and
  3. Respecting the history and dignity of minority groups.

These imperatives are also apparent at other ACM colleges as ACM students and faculty become increasingly diverse, both ethnically and culturally.

This project will bring key issues of diversity, visibility, and connectivity among Asian Americans in the Midwest to the forefront of classroom discussions on American society, history, race, culture, identity, and nationalism across many humanities and social science courses. The initial stage will cover four thematic modules: "Lives of the Japanese American in the Midwest during World War II," "Indochina War diasporas and relocations to the American Midwest," "Hmong cultures and communities in the Midwest," and "Midwestern Chinese entrepreneurship and the American Dream."

"Lives of the Japanese American in the Midwest during World War II" brief course description

The most dominant narratives of Japanese Americans in World War II focus on the internment camps experiences. Far less known is the fact that St. Olaf College was one of the very few American higher education institutions to accept Japanese American students from the internment camps in the 1940s, when most universities, such as the University of Minnesota, denied them admission. Their stories offer a distinct Midwest vantage point from which to view American history and society and should hence be shared.


Activities

Updated Feb 05, 2016

The heart of this project is the development of four digital modules. Activities will include the research, organization, and compilation of the pedagogical materials, along with construction of both the modules and the website that will house the modules. Funding will be used to cover technology support such as consultant fees for the St. Olaf instructional technologists, who will provide expertise on website design, computer/program coding, and overall architecture of the website and modules.

It will also cover production costs for computing services, student worker wages, film equipment rentals, video editing, printing, reference materials, and other supplies, which are crucial to the development of the modules. The funding will also support the traveling and lodging expenses for two project team members - Assistant Professors Ka Wong and Ying Zhou (Asian Studies) to attend the ACM (AY 2015-16) Conference in 2016.

The website and modules production will be directed by the following St. Olaf personnel:

  • Project Leader, Ka Wong, Assistant Professor of Asian Studies
  • Robert Entenmann, Professor of History
  • Benjamin Gottfried, Multimedia Instructional Technologist, Office of Information Technology
  • Katherine Tegtmeyer Pak, Associate Professor of Political Science
  • Ying Zhou, Assistant Professor of Asian Studies.

Professor Wong will invite 5 to 10 St Olaf colleagues from departments such as Race and Ethnic Studies, History, American Conversations, Information Technology, and Education to the June 2016 workshop, along with 10 to 15 interested faculty and technologists who are interested in such projects from peer ACM colleges.

Project Duration and Proposed Activities

The Asia in the American Midwest pilot project will be one year in duration. Background work will begin in Summer 2015 (June to August, 2015) through a CURI project led by Professor Ka Wong and sponsored by St Olaf College that will focus on background information and ethnographic research of the selected themes. The St. Olaf Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) program provides opportunities for St. Olaf students from all academic disciplines to gain an in-depth understanding of a particular subject through working closely with a St. Olaf faculty member in a research framework.

The program's goal is to promote and facilitate undergraduate research in all its forms by supporting students and faculty with various research opportunities during both the summer and the academic year, and by providing funding for students to present the results of their research at conferences or in other appropriate venues.

The ACM-funded portion of the project will run from September 2015 to October, 2016, and will encompass the following:

  • September - November 2015: field work, organization, materials collection and digitization
  • November - December 2015: writing of the contents/ assignments of the website/modules
  • January - February 2016: prototype website with draft modules
  • March- May 2016: website production, such as inputting data, editing, graphics, and design
  • June 2016: The ACM-funded, faculty workshop will be held at the very beginning of the summer at St. Olaf College when most faculty members are available.
  • June - July 2016: fine-tuning, editing, and web-publishing the modules
  • August 2016: Launch of the website for St Olaf College faculty (for feedback and final revisions)
  • September - October 2016: The premiere of the website for ACM colleagues; Project Director Ka Wong will share results with the ACM community in the 2016 conference (October).

The result of the Asia in the American Midwest project will be four digital teaching/learning modules that can be used in a variety of humanities and social science courses on the St. Olaf campus and eventually on other ACM campuses. The project will encourage innovative research and engagement with Asian American Studies, an increasingly significant, yet still underexplored, subject at Midwestern liberal arts colleges. The digital format of the modules will allow timely updates and modifications to advance continuous discussion and incorporation of current events, as well as easy sharing with other interested ACM colleagues as teaching or supplementary materials.


Dissemination Strategies

During the grant period, we will promote the modules through presentations to St. Olaf campus learning communities including the St. Olaf Center for Innovation in the Liberal Arts (CILA), the IT/Library Learning Communities, and the Teaching and Technology "DigiFridays" offered at St. Olaf and nearby Carleton College. The Asia in the American Midwest site and materials will be directly linked to the designated ACM website. This project will also potentially connect to digital projects documenting oral histories of immigrant groups that are currently underway at institutions such as the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Historical Society.

The final result of this first stage of the project funded by FaCE will be a website that is composed of the four aforementioned pedagogical modules. Based on ethnographic, cultural, and archival research, the four modules will include original ethnographic videos (e.g. interviews with people in the community), visual artifacts (e.g. photographs & historical documents), critical analysis and important readings (e.g. links to or copies of scholarly works, articles, and websites), discussion questions, suggested assignments, along with an annotated bibliography (for students' research projects and further readings).

The pedagogical modules will be added to the teaching materials in St Olaf Asian Studies courses, such as "Asia in America" and "Asian Citizenships: Identities and Rights." Once developed for use and implemented, we will further introduce them to our colleagues in other departments such as Race and Ethnic Studies and Education. In some cases, the materials might form the core of a teaching unit/lesson; in other scenarios, they could provide supplementary readings for student research assignments.


Lead Partner
Ka Wong
Assistant Professor, St. Olaf College
Asian Studies
wongk@stolaf.edu
Collaborating partner(s)
Benjamin Gottfield
Multimedia Instructional Technologist, St. Olaf College
Office of Information Technology
bdg@stolaf.edu
Ying Zhou
Assistant Professor, St. Olaf College
Asian Studies
zhou1@stolaf.edu
ACM Program Funding
FaCE
Award
$12,645
Funding Cycle
2014-2015
Project Duration
Keywords
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