CSUN College of Humanities Newsletter
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Asian American Studies Founding Chair, Kenyon Chan to speak at the Distinguished Speaker & Student Awards Celebration hosted by the Asian American Studies Department

On April 30, 2009 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the Grand Salon, the Asian American Studies Department will host an awards ceremony.  The keynote speaker will be Dr. Kenyon Chan, the first Asian American Studies Department Chair.  The event will celebrate the 50th anniversary of CSUN and the 19th anniversary of CSUN’s Asian American Studies Department.  Dr. Chan will speak on the history of Asian American Studies, from its national inception in the Civil Rights Movement to its institutional realization as a profession, to its local creation in Northridge—in the form of the Asian American Studies Department. Dr. Chan was an active participant in all three of these areas.

Dr. Chan received his doctorate in educational psychology from UCLA in 1974. He served on the faculty of UCLA’s School of Education from 1973-1980 and then served on the clinical faculty of UCLA’s School of Medicine and Santa Monica Hospital Medical Center from 1983-1990. From 1990-1998, he served as the founding chair of CSUN’s Asian American Studies Department, which, when it was founded in 1990, was one of the few Asian American Studies Departments in the entire nation. He also served as a former president of the Association for Asian American Studies. After his tenure at CSUN, he went on to serve as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at LMU, and Vice President and then Acting President of Occidental College. He now serves as Chancellor of University of Washington, Bothell. His research has centered upon the effects of race on the emotional and social development of children. He is currently conducting research on social and higher education policy.

Professor Glenn Omatsu, on the importance of the College of Humanities Peer Mentor Program

Nine classes in our College for freshmen and sophomores are attaining retention rates of more than 90% — surpassing the university’s retention rate of 78% — due to the dedication of peer mentors assigned to these classes.  The College of Humanities Peer Mentor Project began in 2006 and focuses on increasing retention in General Education classes in Freshman Composition, Race and Critical Thinking, and General Logic.

Peer mentors are juniors and seniors who attend all class sessions with students and are trained to help them with three basic problems:  attendance, time management, and use of campus resources.  Peer mentors are not teaching assistants; in the words of one freshman: “Peer mentors help students, while teaching assistants help professors.”  Our project is modeled after the highly successful EOP Bridge Transitional Program for freshmen, which has used peer mentors in classrooms for the past decade to promote academic achievement for first-generation, low-income students.

Peer mentors in our project include Samantha Barton, Ron Cunanan, Cindy Gonzalez, Angela Hernandez, Patricia Ho, Marjorie Lacson, Kristine Mirate, Caitlin Newcomb, Brian Ralph, Lalita Singhasri and recent graduates Norma Aceves, Nereida Garcia, and Alicia Zambrano.  Participating faculty include Tracy Buenavista, Kimiko Kelly, Dennis Lee, Millicent Lu, Maria Turnmeyer, and Teresa Williams-Leon from Asian American Studies; Roberta Oroña-Cordova, Vincent Gutierrez, and  Jesse Valadez from Chicana/o Studies, and Jacob Hale from Philosophy.

Leading this project are Professor Glenn Omatsu of EOP, Asian American Studies, and the Faculty Mentor Program; Shelly Thompson, Director of the College’s Student Services Center/EOP; and Associate Dean Elizabeth Adams.

New location for the Women's Research and Resource Center

On December 19, 2007 at about 10:00 pm, a LADWP power failure inadvertently sparked a fire in the Women’s Research and Resource Center.  Because the WRRC was located in one of the old houses on the perimeter of campus and because these houses were not designed to meet contemporary fire and safety codes, by the time the fire was extinguished the damage was extensive.  The WRRC was closed while investigations were conducted by the LAFD and the University’s insurance company.  The conclusion of the investigators was that the cost of renovating the Center and bringing it into compliance with current building codes would be prohibitive, especially since the WRRC at the present location was not part of the campus master plan.

The WRRC is one of the busiest centers on the CSUN campus. It is open 5 days a week during the academic year and serves thousands of students, faculty, and staff every semester. It hosts a wide variety of programs and activities, including Women’s History Month Programming [in collaboration with the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies GWS], Take Back the Night, the Clothesline Project, and numerous speakers and special lectures. In addition, a number of student groups meet at the WRRC on a regular basis. Thus, the destruction of the WRRC had a severe impact on the programming and student involvement in GWS.

After many conversations with the GWS faculty, WRRC student leadership, and the offices of Facilities Planning and Physical Plant Management, we came up with a workable long-term solution.  Asian House (affiliated with Asian American Studies), was scheduled for some maintenance and repair.  The students and faculty in both departments agreed to make this large facility into a shared space and the university committed the resources to renovate the site.  The result is a beautiful new location for the WRRC and a facelift for Asian House.  Located at 18356 Halsted Street, the facility has separate office and work space for each organization, a common kitchen and meeting room, and a patio and lawn area in the back.  The WRRC hosted an open house on March 26th and dozens of students and faculty attended.   Remarks were made by GWS faculty member and Director  of the WRRC, Florence Kyomugisha, Stephanie Montes, WRRC Student Director, Elizabeth Berry, founding faculty member of the Center, Dean Elizabeth Say and Provost Harry Hellenbrand.  Asian American Studies will inaugurate their new space in April when they have their annual Distinguished Lecture.


"Peer mentors are not teaching assistants; in the words of one freshman: "Peer mentors help students, while teaching assistants help professors. "