Asian American Studies

What is an Asian American Studies Major?

The Department of Asian American Studies at UCSB was the very first academic department dedicated to the study of Asian Americans at a major research university, and the first department in the United States to offer a Bachelor of Arts degree in Asian American Studies.

The Department offers undergraduate majors the opportunity to study and understand the experiences of Asian Americans, particularly their histories, communities, and cultures. Students learn to evaluate the existing literature in Asian American Studies, to analyze a variety of data on Asian Americans, to conduct original research, and to participate in internships and social justice issues.

A minor degree, Honors program, and community studies courses are also available to students. The Department provides a well-rounded, interdisciplinary curriculum which engages approaches from traditional disciplines, including history, sociology, anthropology, and literature, as well as from interdisciplinary scholarship in women's studies, law and society, public policy, global studies, social movements, cultural studies, and film and media studies.

Major, General, and Career Information

From the Asian American Studies Department:
Asian American Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara is an interdisciplinary department that offers a wide variety of intellectual ideas and approaches.  As part of a larger Ethnic Studies tradition, we are a community of scholars devoted to collective knowledge production that brings historically marginal voices to the center with the goal of promoting greater social justice. 
Toward this end, we offer a major and a minor degree program with a range of courses that critically analyzes the complex and many times contradictory realities of Asian America.  The lower-division courses offer a thorough introduction to Asian American history and culture, illustrating how migration from Asia has profoundly shaped life in the United States since the mid–nineteenth century. The upper-division courses further explore Asian American contributions to literature, art, culture, film, and performance, in addition to Asian American struggles for political equality, opportunity, and fairness. These courses also highlight contemporary issues facing Asian American communities, issues that require leadership and meaningful intervention.
Our course topics include Asian American history, Asian American Movement, Asian American gender and sexuality, South Asian Women in the Diaspora, Transnational Asian America, Asian American fiction, Asian Americans and the Law, Asian American popular culture, and more.  These courses are taught by award winning faculty whose research and teaching have gained national and international recognition. As a department, we strive to provide a strong, supportive intellectual space of accessible and dedicated faculty and staff for our students.
In addition, we offer an honors program for students who wish to receive Distinction in the Major at the time of graduation. Majors who have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 and major GPA of 3.5 may apply during spring quarter of their junior year for the program beginning the next fall. The Honors Program is comprised of two required courses and one optional independent study course, facilitating the research and writing of an honors thesis.  
Altogether, we are committed to providing a strong basis for success in any number of careers, including law, public policy, government and politics, journalism, education, public health, social work, international relations, and more. Some of our alums have successfully pursued graduate studies in literature, history, sociology, and other traditional disciplines. Others have entered professional programs, such as in film production, law, public policy, public health, education, business, and social welfare. As Asian American communities continue to grow and develop, we hope that our students will be better prepared to play an active role in confronting the many challenges faced by our complex, transnational world.

Get Experience

Resources and Professional Associations

Asian American Studies Departmental Web Page

UCSB Library Asian American Studies Collection

National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP)
The National Association of Asian American Professionals is the largest and fastest growing Asian American professional organization in the U.S. and Canada.

Asian Professional Exchange (APEX)
Today, an organization exists to serve as that place where young Asian American professionals can explore new career paths, meet peers and leaders who impart insights from their experiences, and truly understand what "community" means.

Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA)
The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) was founded in 1981 by a few Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) journalists who felt a need to support one another and to encourage more Asian American and Pacific Islanders to pursue journalism at a time when there were few Asian American and Pacific Islander faces in the media.

Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership
CAPAL truly hopes to honor those pioneering Asian Pacific American leaders and mentors who sacrificed so that future generations would have opportunities that they did not.

National Asian Pacific American Bar Association
The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) is the national association of Asian Pacific American (APA) attorneys, judges, law professors, and law students, providing a national network for its members and affiliates. NAPABA advocates for the legal needs and interests of the APA community and represents the interests of over 40,000 attorneys and 47 local APA bar associations, with practice settings ranging from solo practices to large firms, corporations, legal services organizations, non-profit organizations, law schools, and governmental agencies.

Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies
The Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) is a non-profit, non-partisan, educational organization dedicated to increasing participation of individuals of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage at all levels of the political process, from community service to elected office.

Asian Resource Center
The mission of the Asian Resource Center is to educate, promote, and encourage the interaction and dialogue among the diverse ethnic groups within the Asian American community at UCSB.