An open letter to the leadership of UM

Sunday, April 8, 2018 - 4:57pm

Representative Chang

Representative Chang Buy this photo
Photo provided by Stephanie Chang

It has come to my attention that Lecturer Emily Lawsin is under review for contract renewal as a Lecturer IV in the women’s studies and American culture departments and that University of Washington Prof. Scott Kurashige has requested to be restored his former position at the University of Michigan. I am writing to you to express my concern about any negative statements that have been made about Profs. Lawsin and Kurashige and to share with you the positive experiences I have had with these community and academic leaders.

I graduated from the University of Michigan in 2005 with a minor in Asian/Pacific Islander American studies. I took several classes taught by Scott Kurashige and Emily Lawsin — about Asian Americans and the media, Asian-American history and an Asian-American community service learning class. This minor degree, and the mentorship by Profs. Kurashige and Lawsin both during and after my college career, have been invaluable to my growth as a community advocate strongly rooted in Asian-American identity and community.

Kurashige and Lawsin dedicated countless hours and expertise to the formation and growth of the Detroit Asian Youth Project, a high school leadership program for Hmong and Bangladeshi youth. I cherish my years of involvement as a facilitator and mentor in the program, and credit Kurashige and Lawsin, as well as the Asian/Pacific Islander American studies program, with sparking my interest and dedication to the city of Detroit. It is through Kurashige and Lawsin’s A/PIA studies classes that I learned more about grassroots organizing efforts led by Asian Americans in Detroit and met the legendary activist Grace Lee Boggs. Without Kurashige and Lawsin, I am not sure that I would have made these connections that ultimately led me to move to the East Side of Detroit after graduation to live at the Boggs Center, be a community organizer focused on equity and justice issues and eventually run for office to serve the communities of District 6 as state representative.

My example is just one of the dozens and dozens in which the A/PIA studies program and the leadership and personal commitment of Kurashige and Lawsin truly made a lasting impact on future leaders and changemakers. The University prides itself on being “the leaders and best” — and I know with certainty that the A/PIA studies program and Profs. Kurashige and Lawsin have played a key role in making that motto ring true for many alumni.

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