Seattle has the fifth largest Asian American population in the continental United States. At the University of Washington, Asian American students now make up nearly twenty-five percent of the student body, and at times are more than fifty percent of students in classes about Asia and Asian America. An important issue that emerges is how to teach diverse perspectives when students have been inoculated against the stories faculty want to tell, and the faculty are resistant to the stories students tell and want to hear.
The purpose the Southeast Asian American Pluralism project is to provide spaces inside and outside the classroom for students, teachers, and community partners to develop new models for conversations about identity and diversity. The rich diversity of Southeast Asian American communities provides opportunities for examining issues such as class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion and spirituality, imperialism and colonialism, migration and (trans)nationality, invisibility and visibility. A range of teaching and learning approaches that underscore the intersections of multiple identities and experiences, student empowerment and social action will be explored, including intergroup dialogue, oral history projects, multimedia and performance techniques, and community service learning.
The project fosters innovative methods of learning and teaching through four integrated channels:
- Pedagogy Workshops. Over the course of two years we will offer five innovative two-day pedagogy workshops to teach faculty, graduate teaching assistants, and key staff members to find ways to increase student participation and exploration of difficult material about identity, community, and history in order to promote critical and creative engagement with the material among both students and teachers.
- Team-Taught Undergraduate Courses. We call for course development proposals from faculty for team-taught courses on specific themes related to Seattle’s Southeast Asian communities, pluralism, and free expression. Over the course of two years, six new courses will be developed and taught, drawing on new methodologies from the pedagogy workshops.
- Mediated Student Dialogues. In partnership with the Office of Minority Affairs’ Ethnic Cultural Center (ECC), we will request student organizations across campus to take part in mediated student dialogues, to be held every quarter at the ECC. Dialogues may be thematically or community based and linked to our six team-taught courses.
- Connections with the broader Seattle community. Exhibitions and oral history projects will be displayed in a variety of public spaces, including libraries and museums located on the University of Washington campus and Seattle’s Wing Luke Asian Museum.
The project promotes the following core values:
- to facilitate learning and teaching within an inter-discliplinary, multi-level, and multi-methodological perspective;
- to foster collaborative and empowering connections between students, teachers, and communities; and
- to seek curricular and social transformation through innovative models of learning and teaching.