Asian Americans are now the largest non-white ethnic group on UNC's campus. There is significant demand for a wider range of courses related to this field.
Probably the first Asian American student at UNC, according to our modern understanding of this identity, was Albert Lemuel Bunker, a mixed-race young man from Mount Airy and a son of Chang Bunker, one of the world-famous conjoined Bunker twins. While international students from Japan came in substantial numbers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the next Asian American students to arrive at UNC-Chapel Hill were Japanese Americans who had been imprisoned in the incarceration camps, along with their families, in the American West. They came to campus in 1946 as part of a program that sought to provide educational opportunities to college-aged men and women from the camps. Student numbers grew as immigration laws and patterns changed. In 1987-1989, the Asian Student Association and Sangam, two student groups, organized for the first time. Such groups grew and diversified, and today there are more than 40 organizations focused on Asian and Asian American issues. In 2013, UNC students helped found TAASCON, the Triangle Asian American Student Conference.
In 1996, Professor Gang Yue of the Department of Asian Studies taught the university’s first Asian American literature course. In 1998, Professor Eric Muller joined the faculty of the UNC School of Law, a specialist in the incarceration of Japanese Americans. In 2004, Professor Jennifer Ho began teaching Asian American literature in the English Department. Today, UNC students can take courses on Asian migration to the United States from Professor Ji-Yeon Jo in the Department of Asian Studies; and on Asian American literature and studies from Professors Heidi Kim and Jennifer Ho in the Department of English and Comparative Literature. In response to student interest and enrollment, Drs. Kim and Ho have diversified their course offerings in the last several years to cover subjects such as Asian Americans in the South and the Japanese American incarceration.
To meet this growing demand, we need scholars with expertise in Asian American studies in the departments of History, Sociology, Anthropology, and elsewhere in the college and throughout the university.