Endowed chair is nation's first in Chinese American studies.
By Letisia Marquez
PHILANTHROPISTS WALTER and Shirley Wang have pledged $1 million to UCLA's Asian American Studies Center to establish the nation's first program and endowed academic chair focused on U.S.–China relations and Chinese American studies, UCLA has announced.
The U.S.–China Media and Communications Resource program will seek to educate the American public and policymakers about U.S.–China relations and Chinese Americans through a variety of mediums. Among these will be an informational Web site, a media and policy handbook, and a clearinghouse of experts on Chinese American issues.
A renowned, tenured UCLA professor specializing in U.S.–China relations and Chinese American studies will be chosen to hold the new Walter and Shirley Wang Chair in U.S.-China Relations and Communications.
"UCLA's Asian American Studies Center is the premier research institution on these issues in the nation and the world," Walter Wang said. "Shirley and I are impressed by the quality, range and impact of its scholarship and significant policy research and by the positive contributions it has made and can continue to make in the years ahead.
"We are very passionate about fostering an accurate understanding of the role Chinese Americans have played in our nation's history, and we are honored to support the center's mission," he said.
"Effective communication is one of the biggest barriers to achieving greater understanding and appreciation of U.S.–China relations, and mass media is a vital vehicle for changing perceptions," Shirley Wang said. "By educating the public about the historical significance of these cultures and the important economic, social and political changes they have helped create, we can enhance cross-cultural communication and achieve a deeper understanding."
Walter Wang is president and chief executive officer of JM Eagle, the world's largest plastic pipe manufacturer. Shirley Wang, who graduated from UCLA in 1990 with a bachelor's degree in communication studies, is CEO of Plastpro, a leading manufacturer of fiberglass doors and home products.
Over the past 10 years, the Wangs have supported philanthropic and civic leadership endeavors that promote a better understanding and appreciation of Chinese culture. They are active members of the Committee of 100, a national organization of Chinese American leaders, and they support the China AIDS Initiative, an alliance led by the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center that is dedicated to helping China accelerate its response to HIV/AIDS. Shirley Wang also serves on the board of the China Institute, a nonprofit educational and cultural institution that promotes understanding and appreciation of Chinese culture, and of Facing History and Ourselves, a group that helps educators teach moral responsibility, tolerance and social action.
In addition to being honored recently by New York City's Museum of Chinese in America for their continued support and generous donations, the Wangs have been recognized for their support of the award-winning PBS series "Becoming American: The Chinese Experience" and of the film "The Blood of Yingzhou District," which won the 2007 Academy Award for short subject documentary.
"Walter and Shirley Wang are amazing visionaries, and we are extremely honored that they have given us this extraordinary gift," said Don Nakanishi, director of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center. "Their resources will allow us to pursue major projects that seek fair and balanced media coverage — as well as influence policy discussions — on issues that will likely remain prominent throughout the 21st century."
The UCLA Asian American Studies Center, founded in 1969, is the nation's leading research, teaching, publications, public education, and archival and library program in Asian American studies. Its more than 40 faculty members, drawn from throughout the UCLA campus, specialize in disciplines ranging from the social sciences to the humanities and represent many professional fields, including law, urban planning, education, public health and the arts. The center's press publishes the Amerasia Journal and AAPI Nexius, along with many books and reports. The center also maintains an array of relationships with organizations, elected and community leaders, corporations, and foundations throughout the nation and the world.