May 2013

PAWs - Promoting Awareness and Wellness

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.


The ocean is a cherished aspect of life for many Pacific Islanders.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

During the month of May, we honor the culture, history, and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. In 1992, the United States Congress designated May “Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.” Community festivals and educational activities are held this month around the country to celebrate the achievements of Asian and Pacific Americans (About, n.d.).

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month began as a time to reflect on the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to America on May 7, 1843. It was also a time to honor the contributions of the Chinese during the construction of the transcontinental railroad, which was completed on May 10, 1869. Both events represent major cultural and historical significance in America’s timeline, and helped shape the integration of Asian culture into our country (Important Dates, n.d.).

In current day, Asian and Pacific American cultures represent a significant portion of the vibrant makeup of America. Asian and Pacific music, art, food, and traditions are represented in communities across the country. Additionally, Asian Americans and Pacific Americans make important contributions in a wide range of fields, some of which are highlighted below.

Musical Icon

Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole is a Hawaiian-born singer and songwriter known across the world for his renowned musical style. Born May 20, 1959, IZ grew up surrounded by music and a love for his island heritage. Equipped with an enchanting voice and unparalleled skills on the ukulele, IZ started singing and playing music in a club managed by his parents. IZ eventually went on to become a member of The Makaha Sons, a widely praised Hawaiian musical group. The group blended both contemporary and traditional styles and toured the country, releasing a total of 21 albums. With song subjects such as Hawaiian heritage, environmental issues, and even Hawaiian sovereignty, The Makaha Sons were a voice of the Hawaiian people. After years of success as part of The Makaha Sons, IZ went on to become a solo artist (Biography, n.d.).

IZ had a huge following that quickly spread to include the mainland and eventually the world. In 1993, IZ’s album Facing Future was released and included the recording he is most known for – his simple yet beautiful arrangement of Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World.

Watch the music video for Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful Word by IZ for a glimpse
into Hawaiian musical culture.

IZ quickly gained fame following the release of Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World. His album debuted at 25 on Billboard’s Top Pop Catalog and has sold over 1 million copies in the United States. As IZ’s fame grew, people fell in love with his hauntingly beautiful voice. IZ went on to record a total of five solo albums. Facing Future remains the top selling Hawaiian music album around the world and the only Hawaiian music album to be certified Platinum (Discography, n.d.).

IZ’s worldwide influence came in the mid to late 90s when his top hit was featured in the major motion picture Meet Joe Black. Since then, Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World has been in many films including Finding Forrester and 50 First Dates, as well as in television shows and commercials. After passing away in 1997, IZ’s music lives on as the voice of a nation (IZ’s Story, n.d.).

Lucky Lady

Amy Tan is a well-known Chinese American author who has published numerous novels, short stories, and children’s books. While her contributions to the literary world are numerous, Tan is also an eclectic voice who speaks to the experience of Chinese immigrant families in America.

Amy Tan was born in Oakland, CA in 1952 to parents who emigrated from China just three years before her birth. Tan describes a childhood in which her parents struggled to assimilate to the social norms of America while holding on to their Chinese roots. These experiences undoubtedly shaped Tan’s first novel The Joy Luck Club, which originally started as a series of short stories. Depicting the relationships of four Chinese American women and their daughters, The Joy Luck Club captions not only the generation gap, but the unbridgeable differences between two very different cultures (Classic Review, n.d.).

By age 37, Tan had a bestselling book and many others in the works. In 1993, The Joy Luck Club became a major motion picture. The film version of Tan’s novel was praised for its depiction of how the struggles of women emigrating from China could continue to influence the lives of their American daughters. In 1995, The Joy Luck Club was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and won an award for the top ten films in 1993 by the National Board of Review (IMDb, n.d.).

Tan’s other novels are The Kitchen God's Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bonesetter's Daughter, and Saving Fish from Drowning, all New York Times bestsellers, as well as the recipient of many awards. She is also the author of a memoir, The Opposite of Fate, two children's books, The Moon Lady and Sagwa, The Chinese Siamese Cat, as well as numerous articles for magazines, including The New Yorker, Harper's Bazaar, and National Geographic. Her work has been translated into thirty-five languages, from Spanish, French, and Finnish to Chinese, Arabic, and Hebrew (About Me, n.d.)

View this clip from The Joy Luck Club to see a depiction of how the traditions and cultural
beliefs of Chinese women can clash with those of Americans.

A Celebration of Diversity

The positive impact that Asian Pacific Americans have had on American culture is immeasurable. Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole and Amy Tan are just two of many individuals, from many different cultures, who are celebrated during this month. For more information, check out the Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month website.

Mental Health Month

In the late 1940s, as mental health awareness began to grow, people began observing Mental Health Week. This observance was designated to raise awareness for mental health issues and wellbeing. In the 1960s, the month of May was given the designation of Mental Heath Month. During May, organizations campaign for issues such as mental health research, wellness, mindfulness, and stress reduction. Topics such as suicide prevention and symptoms of mental illness are addressed in order to prevent mental health problems, stigma, and to encourage advocacy.

In 2013, Mental Health Month focuses on social connectedness and has been given the theme “Get Connected.” Mental Health America (MHA) reports that, through connectivity to our communities, families, and friends, we can support mental health and wellbeing for all (Get Connected, n.d.) Here are some ways MHA suggests getting connected:

  • Have a support system: Family and friends can be a great way to get support when you need it.
  • Embrace community: Have a sense of belonging and purpose by being active in your community.
  • Seek professional help: Look to the pros for help with problem management and coping with stress.

One in five adults suffers from a diagnosable mental illness according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, making mental health a critical topic. Whether you are aware of it or not, you may know someone living with a mental health issue and you can be a support to this person. A great way to start is through involvement in your local community efforts to support mental health and wellbeing. There are many ways to get involved, including making a donation to a local mental health organization, running or walking for a fundraiser, volunteering in the community, and sharing your story about your experiences with mental illness. Speak up and join the conversation happening this month about mental health.

Visit MHA’s website for valuable information, including tools for building support systems, managing stress, and recognizing the signs and symptoms of mental health issues, as well as identifying ways you can support this cause.


About Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. Retrieved November 19, 2012 from

About Me. Retrieved April 30, 2013 from

Biography. Retrieved November 20, 2012 from

Classic review: The Joy Luck Club. Retrieved November 21, 2012 from

Discography. Retrieved November 20, 2012 from

Important dates in Asian American history. Retrieved November 19, 2012 from

IZ’s Story. Retrieved November 21, 2012 from

IMDb. Retrieved November 21, 2012 from

Mental Health Month: Get connected. Retrieved November 21, 2012 from

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Federal occupational health. Retrieved April 29, 2013 from