Coveted Class: Asian American Literature

Cathy Schlund-Vials, Professor of English and Asian American Studies, at her office. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)
'I try to make the experience of Asian American people relevant to non-Asian Americans,' says English professor and Asian American studies director Cathy Schlund-Vials. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

The Instructor

Cathy Schlund-Vials spent eight years living in England, part of growing up as the adopted daughter of a career U.S. Air Force chief master sergeant who rotated to military bases at home (Florida, Georgia, and Texas) and abroad. Considering herself “a bit of an Anglophile” when she decided to pursue a doctoral degree at UMass Amherst, Schlund-Vials planned to focus on British literature in her studies.

After enrolling in a class titled “History and Memory,” an ethnic American literature course that was taught by the noted literary critic Joseph Skerrett, she found herself moving down a different path. “It was the first time I had a professor of color who taught literature by people of color,” says Schlund-Vials, who was born in Thailand to a Cambodian mother and American father and was later adopted by a mixed-race couple, an American of German-Scots-Irish heritage and his Japanese wife. “I finally saw myself in the literature.”

A professor of English, Schlund-Vials has served since 2010 as director of UConn’s Asian and Asian American Studies Institute and also is president of the National Association for Asian American Studies. “I try to make the experience of Asian American people relevant to non-Asian Americans,” she says.

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