Paper Title

The US Community College as "Stepping Stone" to Opportunity for Asia/Asian American Women

Location

Room 220, DiGiorgio Campus Center (DiGs)

Start Date

1-4-2016 12:00 AM

End Date

1-4-2016 12:00 AM

Keywords

Asian, Asian American, women, community college, education

Abstract

My paper presents the narratives of four low income female students of different Asian ethnicity at two US community colleges in Southwest Virginia. The stories reveal the women's sense of agency and ambition in choice of program. However, I argue that where the Asian model minority myth offers a simplistic view of Asian success in the US as a consequence of cohesive family values, these narratives illustrate the complexities of family dynamics, especially from an intergenerational perspective, between women. An intersectional perspective that includes gender, income level, histories, and ethnic difference sheds light on the realities of poorer Asian women aspiring to opportunity in the US in the community college system.

____________________________

Of an estimated seven million students at US community colleges nationwide, some four million (57%) are women, mostly of color, of which one quarter are mothers (AAUW report, 2013). Sparse, quantitative, and non-gendered scholarship on Asians/Asian Americans (at about 6% of the total) suggests the need for more qualitative research on this low income demographic at such institutions, as a means to question the Asian “model minority myth” and record its actual experiences. This myth is seen to contribute to the invisibility of poorer Asians in the US as well as to their many cultures, histories, and aspirations to opportunity. An integral component of this “myth” is a family-focused, collectivist worldview that is seen to “account” for Asian success. Based on ongoing research among immigrant and refugee Asians at two community colleges in Southwest Virginia, I present the narratives of four female students, between ages 21-50: one biracial Korean-American single mother, a Filipina mother and daughter, and the US-born daughter of a Cambodian refugee mother. These narratives express ambition and agency, where the college serves as a “stepping stone” to individual opportunity. But contrary to any simplistic understanding of the cohesive Asian family that makes this possible, in a context of financial need the stories reveal the intergenerational dynamic between women as they support but also sometimes constrain each other. I argue that in light of an intersectional perspective which includes gender, generations, ethnicities, histories and income level, the “myth” obfuscates the difficult reality for poorer Asians in the US.

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Apr 1st, 12:00 AM Apr 1st, 12:00 AM

The US Community College as "Stepping Stone" to Opportunity for Asia/Asian American Women

Room 220, DiGiorgio Campus Center (DiGs)

My paper presents the narratives of four low income female students of different Asian ethnicity at two US community colleges in Southwest Virginia. The stories reveal the women's sense of agency and ambition in choice of program. However, I argue that where the Asian model minority myth offers a simplistic view of Asian success in the US as a consequence of cohesive family values, these narratives illustrate the complexities of family dynamics, especially from an intergenerational perspective, between women. An intersectional perspective that includes gender, income level, histories, and ethnic difference sheds light on the realities of poorer Asian women aspiring to opportunity in the US in the community college system.

____________________________

Of an estimated seven million students at US community colleges nationwide, some four million (57%) are women, mostly of color, of which one quarter are mothers (AAUW report, 2013). Sparse, quantitative, and non-gendered scholarship on Asians/Asian Americans (at about 6% of the total) suggests the need for more qualitative research on this low income demographic at such institutions, as a means to question the Asian “model minority myth” and record its actual experiences. This myth is seen to contribute to the invisibility of poorer Asians in the US as well as to their many cultures, histories, and aspirations to opportunity. An integral component of this “myth” is a family-focused, collectivist worldview that is seen to “account” for Asian success. Based on ongoing research among immigrant and refugee Asians at two community colleges in Southwest Virginia, I present the narratives of four female students, between ages 21-50: one biracial Korean-American single mother, a Filipina mother and daughter, and the US-born daughter of a Cambodian refugee mother. These narratives express ambition and agency, where the college serves as a “stepping stone” to individual opportunity. But contrary to any simplistic understanding of the cohesive Asian family that makes this possible, in a context of financial need the stories reveal the intergenerational dynamic between women as they support but also sometimes constrain each other. I argue that in light of an intersectional perspective which includes gender, generations, ethnicities, histories and income level, the “myth” obfuscates the difficult reality for poorer Asians in the US.