Philosophy and Pedagogy

I chose the academic field knowing it would always provide me with a way to connect with students and, hence, with the future. Undergraduate and graduate students, in particular, are the backbone of all ethnic studies–based programs. I continue this ethnic studies tradition of knowledge, critical thinking, and social consciousness in my courses. I have developed seven courses: Contemporary Asian American Issues, Southeast Asian American Issues, Vietnamese American Issues, Vietnamese (American) Women Issues, Asian (American) Diasporas, Asian (American) Fashion, and Mixed Race Issues.

My pedagogy involves introducing students to innovative theory as it relates to important events while encouraging critical thinking toward a stimulating academic experience and engagement in social change. My teaching philosophy has four main goals: (1) prepare my students for successful college and post-graduate careers, (2) create semi-experts of my students, (3) introduce projects that allow my students to create and innovate for diverse industries, and (4) get my students to apply what they have learned in my courses to social service and community building.

In reaction to the challenges of our students to find work in an economically depressed environment and facing a society in moral crises, in the last few years of teaching I have incorporated important job skills and civic minded training as part of a major group project in the course. This has included training in the areas of: social media production, web design, curatorial work, consultation, and research.In lieu of tests, they are to conduct group research projects to cultivate these skills. I guide them through a research plan beginning with a digital library assignment and ending with a research project and oral presentation. These projects have included: socially conscious public service announcement videos; start-up proposals and pitches; creating original art and curating an exhibit; creating research and art in a box, and more. Students may not have come into my class with research and job skills, but they definitely leave with them.

My pedagogy incorporates my interest in technology. Besides using PowerPoint, I also incorporate multimedia such as film, music, and Internet-based images and sounds. I especially enjoy exposing students to the Internet’s many uses, such as social justice organizing and creating virtual communities through social networks, blogging, and web design. I believe that it takes more than books to prepare students for their lives in the virtual and real worlds. Since I am drawn to all things technical and make a point to learn as much as possible about new technologies, I successfully incorporated web development assignments highlighting student major research and writing projects in my summer school courses.

The fourth aspect of my teaching philosophy concerns connecting university teaching with social change. In tribute to struggles that seek to make connections with higher education and the communities from where our students originate, I include in my curriculum community service projects on and off campus. These projects give students opportunities to actively discover the issues in their diverse communities and to participate in programs for change. Students regularly comment that my courses successfully relate to “real life” issues that affect their communities.

Because education is a right, and for many, a privilege, I take teaching seriously and in turn demand a great deal from my students as expressed through my rigorous curriculum. The explicit understanding is that my students are in my courses to master the materials presented. As educators and students, we both have expectations and therefore challenge each other to evolve intellectually. I feel fortunate to have an occupation that challenges me to continuously gain knowledge, and am grateful to learn from my students as much as I hope they learn from me.