SFSU College of Ethnic Studies Honors Jim Hirabayashi

SFSU HONOREE — James Hirabayashi is wearing his President’s medal while standing next to San Francisco State University President Robert A. Corrigan. Photo by Gino De Grandis

San Francisco State University’s (SFSU) College of Ethnic Studies hosted an international conference to delve into issues at the heart of the new national dialogue on race that has emerged since the United States elected its first African American president.

James A. Hirabayashi, Ph.D., who was the first dean of the College of Ethnic Studies, was awarded the President’s Medal by SFSU President Robert A. Corrigan, Oct. 10 at the St. Francis Yacht Club.

He was an original member of the Japanese American Planning Group at the university, which designed the first curriculum in Japanese American Studies. Hirabayashi, one of four individual award recipients, was honored for his leadership.

The other honorees included actor, activist, and SFSU alum Danny Glover. Glover, one of the striking students who demanded a college of ethnic studies was honored with the Crystal Flame award for his leadership.

Other honorees included Ana Montes, local educator and activist, and Elizabeth Parent, educator, activist and first chair of American Indian Studies at SFSU Darden Restaurants and the leadership of the 1968 SFSU student strike.

The Oct. 7-10 conference, “Ethnic Studies 40 Years Later: Race, Resistance and Relevance” addressed ethnic studies and more traditional approaches to the study of race and culture in a global environment.

The College of Ethnic Studies was founded in response to the 1968 SFSU student strike when faculty, students and staff demanded the establishment of the disciplines offered by the college today, including the departments of Africana, American Indian, Asian American and Raza Studies.

Ethnic studies’ presence in higher education arose after a national student movement in 1968-69 that protested the misrepresentation of the histories, cultures and knowledge of indigenous peoples and communities of color in university classrooms and programs. Today hundreds of ethnic studies departments and classes exist at colleges and universities throughout the nation. The College of Ethnic Studies at SFSU is the only college in the country devoted to the discipline.

This semester, 70 faculty members are teaching more than 6,000 students. The college is also home to the Cesar E. Chavez Institute for community-based participatory research in educational and health equity and a program on race and resistance and the Arab Muslim Diaspora.

The conference was expected to draw more than 3,000 alumni, faculty, students, and ethnic studies scholars from seven countries and 35 universities. More than 120 panelists discussed a range of topics including a review of a proposed K-12 ethnic studies curriculum in San Francisco public schools and a session titled “Race, the Power of Illusion,” which examined how the construct of race has historically maintained a powerful hold on human consciousness. The events concluded with a gala reception, which was emceed by actress Judith Nihei and actor/director Delroy Lindo.

For more info on the College of Ethnic Studies, visit www.sfsu.edu/~ethnicst or call (415) 338-1694.

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