Current 4+1 B.A./M.A. Students

Gunindu Sithunada Abeysekera
What does Asian American Studies mean to you?

“In the Asian American Studies Master's program, I have the opportunity to combine all my interests to create my documentary film thesis on a colonial-banned South Asian dance and its relation to diasporic ‘nostalgia without memory.’ My culture is everything to me, so personally, ‘Asian American Studies’ is the process of learning how to articulate and share everything I've ever experienced as a Sri Lankan-American.”

Hello, my name is Gunindu Abeysekera, or "Guni," (he/him/his) and I am an Asian American Studies Master's student at UCI. My family immigrated to the United States in the year 2000 when I was 2 years old, and I have lived in Orange County ever since. For my undergrad at UCI, I was a Film & Media Studies major with a minor in International Studies. During this time, my friends and I founded UCI's first ever South Asian Student Union at UCI (SASU) and I had the opportunity to teach my own course on Bollywood Film through the UTeach UCI. For the past two years, I have also been working at the FRESH Basic Needs Hub at UCI as their Marketing Manager. Currently, my best friend and I have launched a non-profit called "@YALU: Youth Advancement, Leadership, & Education" to foster transnational relations between Sri Lankan-American youth and Sri Lankan youth on our home island.

YALU: Youth Advancement, Leadership, & Unification

Jonathan Agena
What does Asian American Studies mean to you?

“Asian American Studies tells the stories of struggle with notions of visibility, acceptance, identity, citizenship, and trauma. From Chinese railroad workers to Japanese American concentration camp internees, from Southeast Asian refugees to South Asian Muslims suffering in the aftermath of 9/11, AAS reveals to us the dimensions of humanity, race, and U.S. empire in ways that are not only intriguing but also heartfelt.”

Hello, my name is Jonathan Agena, (he/him/his) and I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Asian American Studies and a minor in Film and Media Studies. I believe that young adults should learn about the history and reality of these stories of struggle; the fact that I hardly learned about any of them when I was in high school makes it even more important that we know how the nation we live in operates. I am currently researching Netflix’s Iron Fist whitewashing controversy in relation to Asian American representation and inequality in Hollywood superhero films as part of my thesis. I am also working at the UC Irvine Cross-Cultural Center as an intern for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Special Programs, which involves promoting AAPI awareness through newsletters and social media posts. My academic interests include Asian American and U.S. history, general ethnic studies, and U.S. pop culture and mainstream film/television.

Sophaline Chuong
What does Asian American Studies mean to you?

“Home. Community. Challenges. Growth. Support. This is what Asian Americans Studies means for me. I struggled during my undergraduate years, but Asian American Studies shaped me to be resilient despite my challenges. It helped me connect to my Cambodian history and even to my own family in new ways.”

A daughter of Cambodian refugees, Sophaline Chuong (she/her/hers) graduated with a bachelor’s in Psychology with a minor in Asian American Studies. Born and raised in Stockton, California, she is the first in her family to pursue graduate school. Her passion in organizing led her to participate in the UCI Southeast Asian Student Association - SASA, which fosters community through mentorship. As a student leader, she promotes spaces for storytelling which serve as windows to better understand oneself as well as heal as a human being. Important spaces for Sophaline include the Orange County & Southeast Asian Archive Center and UCI Student Outreach And Retention (SOAR) Center (You will most likely find Sophaline there). Her research interests explore the engagement of memory work, intimacy, and intergenerational trauma in social organizations in order to rethink what mental health is for Southeast Asian youth. She is currently an intern for the department of Asian American Studies.

Ravi Seng
What does Asian American Studies mean to you?

“For me, Asian American Studies has been about making sense of the diasporic movements of peoples from Asia. These movements are imbricated under the aegis of American sovereignty and involve an endlessly complex series of settler colonization, racialization, displacement and ostensible resettlement, etc. But what I find most attractive about the field are the other people drawn to it – severely intellectual and yet still incredibly lovely.”

My name is Ravi Seng Ly, and I graduated with a bachelor’s in Comparative Literature and English. My family came to the United States in the 90s from Khao-I-Dang, a refugee camp in Thailand, and eventually settled in California. More and more, I’m convincing myself that I don’t really know how to read, but none of that’s stopping me from my studies into Cambodian diasporic memory through photography and oral history. I’m working at the Orange County & Southeast Asian Archive Center with the fabulous Thuy Vo Dang. She also introduced me to Santa Ana’s The Cambodian Family, a wonderful community organization that provides refugee and immigrant families with resources toward a better life. Check them out!