Community Spotlight: University of Arizona Asian Pacific American Studies Student

The Biblio Lotus team, opens a new window is proud to continue their spotlight on Asian communities and heritages in Pima County by continuing their series of interviews with University of Arizona student Judy Tram. Judy recently graduated from the University of Arizona and supported the creation of the Asian Pacific American Studies Program. Sadly, Judy was unable to attend classes but she gives a great perspective on the persistent work of the students to have this program added to the university. Judy also talks a about her life growing up in Arizona.

When and how did you come to Tucson / Pima County? 

I came to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona. I graduated from the Honors College and College of Science with a B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology, a B.S. in Neuroscience with an emphasis in neurobiology, and a minor in Biochemistry. I am the oldest of 4 daughters and a first-generation college student. In my spare time, I like to do outdoor activities like running and hiking, reading, and hanging out with friends and family.

Why or how did you choose to focus on Asian Pacific American Studies?

I chose to focus on Asian Pacific American Studies because growing up, I was not exposed to a lot of different cultures other than my own (Chinese-Vietnamese) and the city I grew up in. I grew up in Gilbert, Arizona where I was always the only Asian girl in class along with one Asian boy amongst a sea of students who all knew each other and their families from church. With that being said, I experienced micro-aggression, racism, and teasing at a very young age and always feeling like I didn’t belong. That’s why, when I entered college, I made it a mission to speak up for myself without feeling self-conscious and find a community where I felt welcomed; I found that with the people from APASA center and my science classes.

The APA studies are launching this semester and I am a graduating senior; therefore, I was sadly unable to enroll in any of the courses. If I had an extra semester or year, I definitely would have signed up. When I was a part of APASA’s [Asian Pacific American Student Affairs] Board of Directors, we updated the List of Demands and a demand of ours was to develop and offer an Asian Pacific Studies program that fulfills a degree. The University of Arizona is one of the few PAC-12 universities that does not offer an Asian Pacific American Studies program that qualifies for a major or minor while there are Mexican American, American Indian, Latin America, and Africana Studies programs offered currently. With the new APA studies coming to fruition this year, we and future University of Arizona students will be able to go into depth and discuss Asian Pacific American history and get a minor. I have taken a few Africana Studies classes, had APA studies been available, I definitely would have enrolled without a second thought because I want to learn more about my background and the history that led me to where I am today.

Arizona House Bill 2281 that was signed into AZ state law by Governor Jan Brewer in 2010 banned the Mexican American Studies program in the Tucson Unified School District. The Supreme Court ruled the ban to be unconstitutional in 2017. How do you think this ruling has affected or strengthened student support of the Asian Pacific American Studies program at the university?

I believe that this ruling gave hope for building the Asian Pacific American Studies program and fueled the voices of student support because the Supreme Court ruling the ban to be unconstitutional gave us motivation and a foot in the door.

How has the Asian Pacific American Studies Program influenced your daily life?

The program has influenced my daily life for the better by helping me develop a clearer understanding of my heritage and culture.

Do you belong to any special student groups related to the program?

Yes, I am a member of the Vietnamese Student Association. I was also a part of APASA’s Board of Directors in 2018-2019.

Do you feel your life experiences give you a different perspective of life in Tucson / Pima County? 

Yes, I do feel as though I have a more broad-minded perspective where I see both sides of the story before making my opinion. I believe this trait came about because I know what it is like to be judged, bullied, and micro-aggressed. I also believe that my friend group has influenced how I view Tucson/Pima County as we like to go out and try different things when we have the opportunity to.

What surprised you about living in Pima County and Arizona?

Something that surprised me about living in Pima County is the people and lifestyle here. I feel as though in general, people in Arizona have an appreciation for nature, but people living in Pima County display even greater appreciation. As I have noticed more people cycling or walking around to go from place to place.

What books are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Educated, opens a new window by Tara Westover and the Harry Potter series, opens a new window (I know, I am very late to the party).

Any favorite movies or shows you are watching? 

Currently, I am watching all the Marvel movies in order, opens a new window and just finished WandaVision, opens a new window. (Remember, you can check out these Marvel movies, opens a new window from the Library!).