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Student Spotlight: Class of 2017 AASP Minors

Mon, 03/19/2018

Congratulations to our 2017 Asian American Studies graduates!

Kevin Chou – Dyson School, Applied Economics and Management
Jagravi Dave – College of Arts and Sciences, English and Linguistics
Nuha Fariha – College of Arts and Sciences, Psychology
Victoria Lee-Ngai – Dyson School, Applied Economics and Management
Derek Li – College of Arts and Sciences, Classic and Religious Studies
Diana Li – Industrial and Labor Relations
Melvin Li – College of Arts and Sciences, English
Hailin Liu – College of Arts and Sciences, Asian Studies and Economics
Jamie Sarmiento – Industrial and Labor Relations
Austin Park Ward – College of Arts and Sciences, English

Selections from student bios and impact statements:

Jagravi Dave – College of Arts and Sciences, English and Linguistics

Jagravi Dave is a double major in English, in which she wrote an honors thesis, and Linguistics as well as a minor in Asian American Studies. She was born in Mumbai, India and currently lives in Massachusetts outside of Boston. She has been a part of various campus organizations, most recently as house manager at Von Cramm, a cooperative house on campus, and editor in chief of kitsch magazine. After graduating, she will be working at an educational technology company outside of Boston for a 6-month fellowship. She also plans on pursuing a PhD in the near future.

Impact of the AASP curriculum on Jagravi’s academic experience:

The classes that I feel I have learned the most from have been through the Asian American Studies Program. Two of my favorite classes, Twentieth Century Women Writers of Color in the Americas and Race and Time (both taught by Shelley Wong) have been life-changing. These courses completely changed the way I looked at and thought about the world, both intellectually and in my day-to-day life. 

[Director’s note: For her honors thesis, “’Near-Perceptible’: Failed Dictations and Inexact Reproductions in Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s DICTEE,” Jagravi Dave was awarded the highest Latin honors—summa cum laude.  Jagravi was also a co-winner of the 2017 M.H. Abrams Thesis Prize—the award conferred by the English Department on the best honors thesis of the year.]

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Derek Li – College of Arts and Sciences, Classics and Religious Studies

Derek Li was born and raised in Queens, NY and still considers it his home.  He heard about Cornell more than any other college growing up thanks to his cousins who graduated from here, and as luck would have it, he also ended up attending Cornell.  He is a double major in Classics and Religious Studies.  Derek has been involved in various organizations on campus throughout his time at Cornell, including Cru, a Christian fellowship on campus, and his fraternity Beta Theta Pi.  This past year he also interned with the Asian and Asian American Center.  In his spare time, he enjoys hanging out with friends, playing board games, lounging around, and occasionally exercising.     

Impact of the AASP curriculum on Derek’s academic experience:

The Asian American Studies program opened my eyes to the issues (historical and contemporary) surrounding the Asian American community as well as those of other minority groups.  Before taking a class in the program, I had never really known or cared much about these issues, but after taking a class my junior year I felt compelled to learn more and do something with the time I had left at Cornell. At the same time, I learned a lot about the history of Asians in America, which I found fascinating given that I had never really been exposed to this side of American history.  The program has given me the tools to examine my experiences and the experiences of others through analytical frameworks beyond the personal and the anecdotal.

[Director’s note: Derek Li was the recipient of the Classics Department Book Prize for students with an excellent scholarly record.]

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Jamie Sarmiento Industrial and Labor Relations

Impact of the AASP curriculum on Jamie’s academic experience:

The Asian American Studies Program has been the highlight of my Cornell career. Before entering Cornell, I identified as an Asian American, but it wasn’t until I started taking AAS classes that I truly understood what it meant to be an Asian American. I learned about our political history and our roots in the Civil Rights Movement. I learned about Vincent Chin and his impact on the community. I learned how to reclaim my identity not only as an Asian American, but also as a Southeast Asian American and a Filipina American. I really regret not taking AAS classes sooner, because I feel as though if I had, I would have gotten more involved on campus.

After graduation, I plan on doing Paralegal or Legal Analyst work in New York City.

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Austin Park Ward – College of Arts and Sciences, English

Austin Ward was born in the USA but grew up as a military brat largely outside of it. He intends on eventually returning to school for an MFA in poetry. At Cornell, he worked at and eventually managed the Green Dragon Cafe and worked as the assistant head projectionist at Cornell Cinema. 

Impact of the AASP curriculum on Austin’s academic experience:

My decision to take Professor Wong's Intro to Asian-American Literature is probably what led me to the Asian American Studies minor in the first place. Throughout high school in southern Illinois, I think I had a growing sense of a part of my identity and position in American society that I was not addressing or perhaps did not have the tools to address in the first place--that is, my being half Korean. For me, Professor Wong's class was a way of sort of getting at or addressing these issues. I had lived abroad for most of my childhood and moving back to the States forced me to reconsider race in America and other minority experiences. Taking Professor Wong's class as well as other classes in the Asian American Studies and Asian Studies programs at Cornell had a profound impact on my personal experience. Outside of biographical details, I was also exposed to criticism and scholarship on how minority experience and societal conflict could be addressed and considered critically. Academically, my exposure to the Asian American Studies Program came at a time that I was beginning to think more about theory and criticism in general and AASP's classes furthered my academic interests in both continental philosophy, poetry, and literature. Though I probably did not realize it at the time, the AAS program's presence on campus influenced my decision in classes I took even outside the program as well as my thinking about various issues in other fields. All this said, I eventually asked Professor Wong to advise me in my senior honors thesis in English as I came to see her as a professor I both trusted and respected. 

[Director’s note: Austin Park Ward has won writing prizes for both his poetry and his essays.  His English Department thesis, “From Out Along the Trace: C.S. Giscombe’s Poetics of Location in Giscome Road,” was awarded the highest Latin honors—summa cum laude.  Austin was also a co-winner of the 2017 M.H. Abrams Thesis Prize—the award conferred by the English Department on the best honors thesis of the year.]

AASP Minors, Class of 2017

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