Dawn Lee Tu, Director, Asian Pacific American Student Development Office at UC Berkeley

DDawn Lee Tuawn Lee Tu is the new Director of the Asian Pacific American Student Development  (APASD) Office. Jere Takahashi, currently a lecturer in AAADS, stepped down from APASD after 25 years of service.

Before coming to Berkeley, Dr. Lee Tu was at the University of San Francisco as director of both the Intercultural Center and the Gender and Sexuality Center. Her work there
covered broad diversity issues and intersectional, diversity, and inclusion work. She holds a PhD in
Cultural Studies from the University of California at Davis where her research focused on diversity initiatives and Asian American student engagement in college. She also holds an MA in American Studies from New York University where she researched and wrote about Asian American youth and hip-hop consciousness. 

APASD is a resource for student-initiated programs designed to improve campus climate for Asian Pacific Islander (API) students. APASD also organizes its own annual programs to bring together communities for purposes of community building, like APIICON.  Much of APASD’s work is centered around student persistence and retention, and Lee Tu would like APASD to be much more of a leader on having retention and persistence to be more clearly defined for API students.

“APASD is in a moment where we have a really good opportunity to look very broadly at what the [Asian American] community needs are. The [Asian American] community is about 40 percent of undergrads and grad students here. So compared to our counterparts in the African American, Chicano American and Native American Offices, where diversity issues is still very much about critical mass, our work is a little different. It’s more about thinking of the particular underrepresented communities within the Asian American community like Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders. So we have to think about continuing numbers issues, what to do with the overall critical mass, and understanding the different things that the [Asian American] community needs because it’s a constantly changing community.”

Lee Tu would also like APASD to be more of a hub to bring more cohesiveness on campus 

that is in support of academics, student groups, and connectivity. The API community is “very big and spread out, and there’s a lot of duplication, recreating the wheel, and lack of collaboration.”

Lee Tu is also planning on developing a greater connection with AAADS by knowing what is being taught in the classroom and supporting faculty by enhancing programming of events. Down the line, Lee Tu would love to develop more academic and research opportunities. AAADS students often have a community learning requirement and Lee Tu hopes APASD can help students develop their research to help those community organizations that they are working with. She is also finding more ways to pipeline students to take AAADS courses and to become majors and minors. 

In terms of her own research, Lee Tu sees herself as a “scholar practitioner,”and she has done a lot of thinking and writing on diversity policies and Asian American college student experiences. The student development piece of her research, in practice, comes on a daily basis. She reads a lot to keep “a good pulse”on continuing research and scholarship, makes sure to carve out time for researching and thinking, continues to present, and is currently writing about allyship among communities of color.

Email Dawn at dawnleetu@berkeley.edu or visit her at 249 César E. Chávez Student Center.