Photo for A new, interdisciplinary Pilipino Studies...

"the Philippines and its Elsewheres" speaker series / Photo: CSEAS

With the announcement of the new minor in the department of Asian American studies, faculty and staff reflect on the journey to establish the minor that started a decade ago.

By Kitty Hu (UCLA, 2020)


On April 29, 2020, the UCLA Department of Asian American Studies (AASD) officially announced the approval of a new minor in Pilipino Studies, set to launch in fall 2020.

Proposing the Minor

In 2009, AASD first approved the Pilipino Studies concentration after a two-year campaign by faculty, alumni, graduate and undergraduate students. Campus student organizations such as Samahang Pilipino actively worked with faculty throughout the process to ensure that student voices were heard.

In 2017, AASD reached out the UCLA Asian American Studies Center and UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies to launch a speaker series titled "the Philippines and its Elsewheres," tied to a new course taught by Professor Lucy Burns in Asian American studies. For the next two years, UCLA hosted faculty panels, book talks and other events about Pilipino literature, higher education, refugee experiences and other topics relevant to the diaspora community. The speaker series was supported by over a dozen departments and centers across campus.

With the speaker series generating more interest in Pilipino Studies, Professor Burns and Kristine Jan Espinoza, former AASD student affairs officer, began to draft a proposal for the Pilipino Studies minor. Professor Burns and Professor Victor Bascara, AASD chair, presented the proposal to various faculty committees and university-level bodies to get the minor approved.

A Collaborative Effort

The Pilipino Studies minor will be an interdisciplinary study of a variety of fields including literary studies, global health, global migration, international labor, performance studies, American studies and California studies, according to the official letter released by AASD.

In the announcement, Bascara shares that this moment is "part of the long history of coalition and activist work of students (past and present), staff, and faculty." The minor builds upon the expanding curriculum from recent years in departments such as film, television and digital media, Asian languages and cultures and anthropology.

Bascara credits Burns with getting the minor "collaboratively crafted and resoundingly approved." Additionally, he recognizes Espinoza for her crucial advocacy before she left to pursue her doctoral studies. He remarks, "These two did the necessary work to get us here."

Burns echoes Bascara’s sentiments about decades of student interest and activism. She adds, "Student advocates persisted year after year with the support of longtime UCLA Asian American Studies Center and UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies staff as well as faculty members, Nenita Domingo and Damon Woods. I am excited about what the minor represents and how it will allow students, faculty and staff to continue exploring what is possible within Pilipino Studies."

Barbara Gaerlan, Ph.D., former assistant director of UCLA Center for Southeast Studies, shares, "I'm really thrilled to learn of the establishment of the Pilipino Studies minor in the department of Asian American studies. Congratulations to all who have worked so hard to make it a reality. Mabuhay kayong lahat!"



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Published: Friday, May 29, 2020