Yee, new executive director of the Center
for the Pacific Rim since August, has big plans for the center. Chief among
them is her goal to expand the study of Asia.
“As Asia assumes an
increasingly important role in global affairs, it’s a natural thing for us to do,” Yee said. “The center is something quite unique to USF and we
should definitely take advantage of our own strengths.”
As part of her effort, Yee would
like to increase awareness of Asian-Pacific affairs among students, parents, high
school counselors, and members of the public, eventually recruiting more students into both of the center’s
academic programs – a bachelor’s degree in Asian studies and a master’s degree in Asia
Pacific studies. She would also like to see Asia-related courses embedded across disciplines and increase the number of non-major
students taking Asian studies classes, as well as create more opportunities for
all students to experience Asia first-hand through exchange and internship
opportunities with universities in Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, “and, hopefully,
eventually China,” she said.
Yee also wants to increase the number of faculty
across various disciplines who can teach about different facets of Asia. That
would be in addition to having dedicated faculty within the Asian studies
program. Currently, the program has no faculty of its own; all courses are
taught by faculty from other departments.
Also on Yee’s list of
goals is to establish closer collaboration between the center and USF's schools
and colleges, particularly the business and law schools to leverage their combined strengths and further integrate Asia studies into the curriculum at large. For many students, she said,
having a grounding in the languages, cultures, and history of Asia would be
tremendously helpful in their future careers.
All are changes that would
play off the university’s distinct advantage of its San Francisco location,
including proximity to Asia and access to rich Asian cultural resources.
For her part, Yee brings a
wealth of experience and knowledge on Asia to the position. A U.S. citizen, Yee
grew up in colonial Hong Kong before earning her bachelor’s degree
from the University of California, Berkeley and a doctorate in comparative literature from Harvard
University. After teaching stints at Cornell University and the University of Maryland, Yee felt called to return to Hong Kong to help build the
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, a U.S.-style research
university that has become a center of world-class research in the Asia-Pacific
region, where she served in various positions, including as a scholar and associate vice president to the president.
“Clearly, Dr. Yee has the
intellectual training, commitment to education and service, the ability to
communicate across disciplines and cultures, and international experience to
lead our Center for the Pacific Rim into a new era of achievement,” said USF
Provost Jennifer Turpin.
For Yee, that new era –
five to 10 years from now – includes a university student population
knowledgeable about issues in Asia, a dedicated faculty in the Asian studies
program and a new generation of USF graduates in leadership positions with greater visibility for university experts in Asia/Pacific affairs, and
an expanded overall presence of the Center for the Pacific Rim.