May 2012

May 2012

Ashford University is proud to show you our PAWs. That is, our Promoting Awareness and Wellness initiative! Every month, we'll highlight different causes and opportunities that reflect the values of the University. You'll also learn ways that you can participate or be more involved.

MAY 2012 – asian pacific american heritage month

Champion swimmer and surfing ambassador Duke Kahanamoku, depicted in this statue on Kuhio Beach, was
born in Hawaii when it was still a sovereign nation.

May brings a celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage month and an opportunity to applaud the contributions of the Asian Pacific American community.

It wasn’t until 1977 that a small group of senators and representatives proposed to President Jimmy Carter to make the first ten days of May Asian Pacific Heritage Week. The proposal was accepted in 1978, over one hundred years after the Chinese assisted in the completion of the transcontinental railroad, and President Carter recognized the week as a national event. Twelve years later, President George H.W. Bush declared the entire month of May to be Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. (About Asian-Pacific, n.d.)

Historical Woes

While we now celebrate the accomplishments and achievements of Asian Pacific Americans, it is all too easy to forget that as recently as the 1940s, many people had a very different sentiment regarding Asian ethnic groups who called the United States their home. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, over 100,000 Japanese people living on the US’s west coast were moved to internment camps. According to the Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, in these camps “…families lived in substandard housing, had inadequate nutrition and health care, and had their livelihoods destroyed: many continued to suffer psychologically long after their release.” Although the United States has made efforts to make amends for these internment camps, it will always mark a very dark time in our nation’s history (Children of the Camps, 1999).

The following video is a stark reminder of this unfortunate period in history:

A Spark of Inspiration

As a Filipino-American, writer Carlos Bulosan used the discrimination he experienced as a catalyst for change. Bulosan was raised in the Philippines and did not move to the United States until he was 17 years old. When he reached the US, Bulosan, like many immigrants in the early 20th century, expected to find a better life. Instead he was met with racism, classism, and a string of low-wage jobs that led nowhere. Nevertheless, Bulosan made the best of his situation and became active in labor movements. Even after Bulosan was diagnosed with tuberculosis and received emergency surgery, he made the most of the two years he spent recovering. Bulosan spent those years reading and writing and eventually became a celebrated novelist famed for his support of the working class. The following quote is taken from what many consider his greatest work, America is in the Heart:

America is not a land of one race or one class of men. We are all Americans that have toiled and suffered and known oppression and defeat, from the first Indian that offered peace in Manhattan to the last Filipino pea pickers. America is not bound by geographical latitudes. America is not merely a land or an institution. America is in the hearts of men that died for freedom; it is also in the eyes of men that are building a new world. America is a prophecy of a new society of men: of a system that knows no sorrow or strife or suffering. America is a warning to those who would try to falsify the ideas of free men (Carlos Bulosan, 2012).

The First Wave Rider

Duke Kahanamoku was born in 1890 in Honolulu, HI. At that time, Hawaii was a sovereign nation. It wasn’t until 1898 that it was officially recognized as a United States Territory, and Duke was made an American citizen. Kahanamoku was a natural born waterman and from an early age he reveled in any activity that allowed him to play in the ocean. He studied the form of visiting swimmers and spent his time perfecting his swimming technique. It wasn’t long before Duke began setting record swim times; times so fast that officials refused to believe they were accurate. When Duke first visited the mainland, he competed and qualified for the US Olympic team, winning his first Olympic race by breaking the Olympic record for the 100-meter dash. Kahanamoku would go on to win two more gold and two silver Olympic medals throughout the course of his lengthy swimming career, as well as, set three world records in the 100-yard freestyle (Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, n.d.). However, it was not for his prowess as a record-holding swimmer that the Duke is best known. Kahanamoku is largely recognized as the first ambassador of the sport of surfing and has held surfing demonstrations all over the world, introducing the sport to the east coast of the US and Australia. The Duke was even famous enough to appear on the popular television show, This is Your Life! (Gault-Williams, M. (n.d.).

Watch the footage here:

Regaining Focus: President Obama Honors Asian Pacific Americans

In 1999, President Bill Clinton established an advisory committee to address the unique challenges faced by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, such as health discrepancies, educational inconsistencies, and workplace barriers. In October 2009, President Barak Obama signed an executive order that reestablished the advisory committee in an effort to restore the White House initiative supporting Asian Pacific Americans (Initiative on Asian Americans, n.d.).

It is undeniable that the contributions of Asian Pacific Americans are incalculable. This month, Ashford University encourages you to celebrate these contributions and to learn more about the many cultures that comprise this diverse group. Learn more about Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Ashford University Faculty Spotlight – Virginia Loh-Hagan

Assistant Professor and Program Chair of Library Science, Reading Literacy, and Mathematics Instruction for the College of Education

“I was the first person in my family to be born in the US,” explains Dr. Virginia Loh-Hagan, “so I was named after the state in which I was born.” An Assistant Professor and Program Chair of Library Science, Reading Literacy, and Mathematics Instruction for Ashford University’s College of Education, Virginia is also a published author who specializes in Asian-American children’s literature.

This accomplished full-time Ashford faculty member earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at the University of Virginia, where she was the recipient of the Outstanding Woman Scholar in Education award, and completed a joint doctoral program in Education at San Diego State University and University of San Diego. Before joining Ashford, she was a K-8 teacher, where her curricula was focused on multiculturalism, and she has taught at several other colleges and universities. “At Ashford, I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to practice innovation and leadership on a daily basis.”

Virginia identifies herself as an Asian-American. “My ethnic background is Chinese. I was born in the year of the dragon.” As a child, Virginia celebrated her heritage by participating in Chinese New Year and attending a Chinese school until the age of 10, which she regrets not sticking with. “If only I’d known at the time what an asset knowing Mandarin is!” As a teenager, she remembers wishing she had blonde hair and blue eyes like most of her friends. “I got over that when I realized how awesome Asian food is,” jokes Virginia.

Today, this California resident is proud to celebrate her heritage and uses her books and teaching opportunities to make sure Asian-Americans everywhere feel the same way. “It is important for teachers to expose students to Asian-American voices and perspectives. I encourage everyone to learn about their significant contributions; to learn about the injustices of marginalizing people; and to learn about the rich cultural heritage of people who do not look, talk, or act like you.”

Virginia recommends all her students be committed and present in all endeavors. “All the opportunities I have ever had are because I showed up and cultivated relationships.” She advises, “Show up with good work and study habits, and positive attitudes. Be prepared to step up your game. We are not entitled to anything. Students focus too much on the grade and not the journey – but life is about building relationships and making impressions.”


About Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. (n.d.). Retrieved on April 1 from
Carlos Bulosan. (2012). Retrieved on April 2 from
Children of the camps internment history. (1999). Retrieved on April 3 from
Duke Paoa Kahanamoku. (n.d.). Retrieved on April 13 from
Gault-Williams, M. (n.d.). Duke Kahanamoku. Retrieved on April 2 from
Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. (n.d.). Retrieved on April 1 from