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Asian and Asian American community at Stanford University: Oral Histories

After using this guide, Stanford Libraries users will be able to identify and access primary and secondary sources about the history of the Asian and Asian American community at Stanford University.

Stanford Historical Society Oral History Program

Stanford Historical Society Oral History Program Interviews, 1999-

The Stanford Historical Society's Oral History Program explores the institutional history of the University, with an emphasis on the transformative post-WWII period, through interviews with leading faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, and others. The collection includes a project on Racial and Ethnic Diversity at Stanford, which seeks to recapture what happened in the two decades between the late 1960s and the late 1980s that initiated and then shaped a significant increase in undergraduate student diversity at Stanford. Over 23 interviewees have been interviewed for that project. Many transcripts and audio recordings are accessible online through the Online Archive of California. The collection also includes interviews with Asian American staff and alumni describing their experiences as students and beyond. 

Online exhibits with oral history interviews related to the history of the Asian and Asian American community at Stanford include the Stanford Oral History Collection. This content can also be searched through the Stanford Historical Society.

Content includes:

Carolyn Nomura (1969 AB Anthropology) speaks about her time at Stanford in the 1960s. She describes growing up in Washington with Japanese immigrant parents, who had been interned at Tule Lake during World War II. Turning to Stanford, she recalls the academic workload of her courses in Anthropology and the Western Civilization required course. She also discusses social life during the 1960s, including living in Lambda Nu and some of the political activity around campus and the Bay Area.

Frank Y. Chuck, who attended Stanford in the 1920s, shares memories of his upbringing and his experiences as a Chinese-American student at Stanford. 

Bernadine Chuck Fong is the Director of Leadership Initiatives and Special Projects at the Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education at Stanford University. In this oral history, she speaks about her childhood in Palo Alto, her connections to Stanford, and her long career in higher education. Topics covered include her identity as Chinese-American, her work in community college administration, her undergraduate and graduate studies at Stanford, and her interest in psychology.

Nelson Dong reflects on the interplay of his Chinese heritage and family norms with the prejudice he encountered from fellow (Caucasian) students at Stanford. As a strong academic student, he got to know some faculty and administrators and credits them with enabling some of the success he had as a student. Advocating for an Asian-American theme house was one of his key efforts.

Kim Garcia-Meza, Class of 1989, speaks about her family history and experiences with racism, struggling with both leukemia and her multi-racial identity during her time at Stanford, and her efforts to help children of color today.

Jennifer Hsu (1994 BS Biology) shares memories of her time at Stanford in the early 1990s. Hsu describes attending Stanford while overlapping with a sibling and experiences of dorm life, including the process of the draw or housing lottery. She recalls her involvement with the Undergraduate Chinese American Association and the Asian American Activities Center.

Audrey Huynh (2019 BA International Relations) discusses her experiences surrounding the women’s marches that took place in January 2017. Huynh recalls an early interest in women’s issues, which she attributes to the book Half the Sky. She describes feeling a connection to the stories of women of color in the book, especially those of Vietnamese descent like herself.

Dan Kojiro discusses his experience at Stanford as an Asian American student and how he became involved in promoting the issues of concern to the Asian American communities. He highlights the importance of recognizing the differences within and across the Asian American communities. He also discusses how the different racial/ethnic groups worked together at Stanford and the challenges they faced in terms of collaboration.

Katharine Ku retired in 2018 as executive director of Stanford University’s Office of Technology Licensing (OTL), where she had served almost continuously since 1979. During her career, Ku witnessed the emergence, development, and growth of the field of university technology licensing. Her unique perspective as a nationally recognized figure in technology licensing provides insight both into the field generally and Stanford’s growth in particular.

Suzanne Lee (1994 BA English; 1995 MA Communication) shares memories of her time at Stanford during the 1990s. She describes growing up in a Korean immigrant family in North Carolina and becoming a “lifelong Californian” who “found my tribe” as soon as she arrived at Stanford.

Mo-Yun Lei Fong (1995 BS Chemical Engineering, 1996 MA Education) shares memories of her time at Stanford. She discusses growing up with Taiwanese immigrant parents and following her sister to Stanford. She describes her involvement with various organizations associated with the Asian American Activities Center, including Volunteers in Asia and the Asian American Christian Fellowship.

Kien Pham, the president and co-founder of the Vietnam Foundation and vice chairman of the VietnamNet Media Group, reflects on the impact John W. Gardner and the community of White House Fellows have had on his life. Pham recalls immigrating to Colorado from Vietnam in 1977, his path to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, and his selection as a White House Fellow in the class of 1985-1986.

H. K. Wong oral history collection

H. K. Wong oral history collection, circa 1966-1990

Oral histories related to Chinese immigrants and Chinese Americans in California, as well as recordings of radio interviews with Wong.

Content includes:

Side A contains a recording of KTLA Channel 5's coverage of the 1976 Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. On Side B, Young Louis, son of Ah Louis, visits and speaks about the Cuesta Tunnels and the Southern Pacific Railroad Company with two other people. He gives details about the railroad and family history.

Chinese Railroad Workers Project

Chinese Railroad Workers Project

The Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project at Stanford (CRRW) seeks to give a voice to the Chinese migrants whose labor on the Transcontinental Railroad helped to shape the physical and social landscape of the American West. Between 1864 and 1869, thousands of Chinese migrants toiled at a grueling pace and in perilous working conditions to help construct America's first Transcontinental railroad which provided vast wealth for its four owners, including the fortune with which Leland Stanford would found Stanford University some two decades later. The Oral Interviews Gallery offers public access to video interviews with families who include among their ancestors the Chinese who helped build the Transcontinental Railroad.

The full online exhibit with oral history interviews can be explored in the Chinese Railroad Workers Project.

Content includes:

Charlie Chin, an artist in residence at the Chinese Historical Society of America discusses the history and impact of Chinese labor in the building of the Transcontinental Railroad.