May 3, 2021

Dear Cockrell School Students, Faculty and Staff,

This month, the United States celebrates Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, during which we intentionally recognize the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) and the ways in which these communities have shaped our past, present and future. Since, by now, you all probably know that I love a little history, I wanted to share that Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month was first recognized in 1979 as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week, which was expanded into today’s monthlong recognition in the early 1990s.

The month of May was chosen to commemorate the AAPI community in recognition of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States (in May of 1843) and because May was the month of the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 (much of the railroad construction labor was performed by Chinese immigrants). The website maintained collaboratively by the Library of Congress and several other national agencies has a trove of resources related to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States — from history, to art and culture, to politics and advocacy.

In the Cockrell School, the AAPI community makes up a significant portion of our community, encompassing more than 30% of our student body and more than 20% of our faculty. However, the term Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is very broad and risks overlooking the significant diversity within the AAPI population. As we have seen highlighted by recent events, members of the AAPI community are often subjected to racism and suffer from a variety of stereotypes that can hinder inclusion and a sense of belonging.

In March, Dean Wood and I shared this resource, with some suggestions about what each of us can do to support the AAPI community. For instance, I encourage you to watch the PBS Asian Americans documentary, a five-part series that explores the past, present and future impacts of Asian Americans. Here at UT, the Counseling and Mental Health Center has put together some helpful resources on dealing with stereotypes that AAPI students face, and it hosts a weekly Asian Voices @ UT discussion group that is open to all students who identify within the broad spectrum of Asian and Asian American backgrounds.

TI’m also excited to share that UT’s GraduAsian event is being revived this year after a hiatus of several years. This year, it will include a special virtual ceremony to celebrate the achievements of UT’s graduating Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) students. Graduating APIDA students can visit the webpage to register to attend.

In closing, as we prepare to recognize and celebrate all of the new graduates of the Cockrell School later this month, I want to remind everyone that you will still belong here — even long after you’ve moved on to your next successes.

Sincerely,

Christine Julien Signature

Christine Julien
Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Cockrell School of Engineering