Husky 100 Includes Three AES Students

Dr. Connie So with Katrina Salazar Punzalan, Thien-Tu Lien, and Dylan Tran
Dr. Connie So with Katrina Salazar Punzalan, Thien-Tu Lien, and Dylan Tran

On May 7th, the Husky 100 Class of 2018 was honored with a celebration in the HUB Mural Lounge. This year, three American Ethnic Studies students were included among the 100 UW undergraduate and graduate students recognized from across the three UW campuses. The award honors students who meet the following criteria: “The Husky 100 actively connect what happens inside and outside of the classroom and apply what they learn to make a difference on campus, in their communities and for the future. Through their passion, leadership and commitment, these students inspire all of us to shape our own Husky Experience.” AES was able to catch up with these three students and learned more about each of them.


Thien-Tu Lien, Senior, American Ethnic Studies

I was born in Vietnam, my family is from China. I am a first generation Chinese Vietnamese immigrant and college student. At UW, I am studying American Ethnic Studies, as well as math and diversity as minors. In the UW campus community, I am involved through being a member of organizations such as Pre-conquest Indigenous Cultures and its Aftermath (PICA) conference, Black Panther Party, and Chinese American Citizen Alliances (CACA). This helps extend the UW campus community further to a bigger community. I have volunteered at my son's elementary school, helping them through tutoring, distributing food every month, being part of the PTO organization from treasurer to vice president. Through the Pipeline project, I have opportunities to help communities as my way to show my gratitude by giving back.

What attracted me about American Ethnic Studies as a major has been the program’s principles. American Ethnic Studies is grounded in a multicultural, interdisciplinary, and intersectional approach. The program is distinguished by its strong focus on issues of social justice, equality, and civil and human rights—especially as this pertains to those U. S. groups that have been historically subjected to exclusion and marginalization. It helps me in critical thinking and the acquisition of excellent writing skills. Other opportunities that are also available for me as a student include participation in community-based internships and practicums, independent study, and field research courses. This major fulfills my desire to make valuable contributions in diverse spheres of society. 

All of the classes in AES are interesting to me. Each one has its own fascinating knowledge that helps me think critically. Instead of saying which class is the most interesting, I would like to share which one has inspired me to declare my major in AES. It was one of the first courses I took when I started school at UW. I took Asian American Studies 350 (AAS 350) out of curiosity. I wanted to learn about the differences and similarities of race, class, gender, sexuality, and generation influence on the life experiences of the Chinese in America. Dr. Connie So has helped and inspired me ever since. Her questions opened my eyes. I used to be proud whenever I heard the term “model minority,” until Dr. So’s question woke me up from my coma. Model minority for whom? I have started to think more critically ever since I took her class. I believe education is the way to success. Unfortunately, the educational system has not been equal for everyone, so after UW, I plan to pursue some fields related to education.

My firm resolution to earn a college degree for the future of my son has kept me going during many challenges. My experience as an extremely cruelly-abused spouse has given me compassion for other women who have been inhumanely treated. I understand how difficult it is to break free from the hold fears have had on myself and others. Many times I have wanted to quit, but I have chosen to hope, to believe in others, to trust that there are people in the United States who truly care about me. Without challenges, I would not have become who I am today, a thriver, but I also would not have had many opportunities to find my path in life and to fulfill my passion to help others become the best they can be.

It was an honor to receive the email notification stating that Dr. So had nominated me for the Husky 100 award. My family and Mr. Guillermo Carvajal—a family support worker at my son's school—encouraged me to apply for this award. While the award will assist me with creating a LinkedIn profile and other professional opportunities, for me it is a way to put my mother, my son, Mr. Carvajal, and all the professors who have supported me through this Husky experience in the foreground. Without them, I would not have been able to continue my education and pursue my goals and dreams. I would like them to be on the stage with me to be recognized as well. Receiving a Husky 100 honor would be the best publicly valued recognition of my accomplishments as a UW student, of all the priceless sacrifices my family has made, and of all the substantial dedication my professors have given. As the first generation of my family to attend and graduate from college, I want my family to be proud of me. As a non-traditional UW student, I want current and future non-traditional students to look to me as a motivation in pursuing their goals. 


Katrina Salazar Punzalan, Junior, American Ethnic Studies, Law, Societies & Justice

I was born and raised on the island of Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). I am studying American Ethnic Studies and Law, Societies, and Justice. I'm involved with the campus community mostly through my job as this year's ASUW Pacific Islander Student Commission Director. I am also a member of PISC's cultural RSOs like the Micronesian Islands Club, Polynesian Student Alliance, and Filipino American Student Association.

Before coming to the UW, I had not taken a class that focused on the histories and narratives of people of color, especially not my own ethnic group. CNMI History classes in Saipan are taught with a focus on colonial occupation, so the nature and lens of AES classes was new to me. Taking AAS 360 my freshman year was an eye opener for me because the themes resonated with me so much as someone who grew up with first generation immigrant parents and lived in a neighborhood with mostly Filipinos and Pacific Islanders. AES shifted my way of thinking and the issues explored by AES are topics that I believe will be relevant in my future career because I know for sure that I want to work with underrepresented communities. Ultimately, I decided to declare AES because I wanted to expand what I learn through the major into exploring the history, diaspora, and immigration of Asian Americans to the CNMI. AES best equipped me with the classes, resources, and support to do that. I'm able to make this hope a reality by pursuing the departmental honors route with Dr. Rick Bonus wherein my honors thesis will focus on the topic of Asian immigration to the CNMI and the unique policies around that. My hope is that through this opportunity, I'll be able to take my research back home to shed light on these issues and create palpable change in the CNMI.

I really enjoyed AAS 206: Contemporary Issues of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans with Dr. So when I took it my freshman year, so much that I worked with Dr. So to become a peer facilitator for the class my sophomore and junior years. This class is life changing, I think, because the content is very relatable and validates the Asian and Pacific Islander identity and experience through academia. I loved the final project for this class because it gave me an opportunity to reflect and share my story. It was this class that helped me realize how important my cultural identity of being Filipino from the CNMI is to me. I plan to go back to my home island of Saipan for about a year to work and prepare for law school. I hope to come back to Washington state for law school, ideally, then perhaps return to Saipan again to serve the community as an attorney.

I just want to give a big shout out to Dr. Connie So, who nominated me for the Husky 100 and also wrote my letter of recommendation. She has been like a mentor figure to me while at the UW and has supported me a lot since my freshman year. Many of the opportunities I've taken on while at the UW is thanks to her recommendation and constant encouragement. I also want to say thank you to the AES faculty and staff who have pushed my thinking and expressed support even after I completed their classes and outside the AES offices—especially Lorna Hamill, Dr. Rick Bonus, Dr. Carolyn Pinedo-Turnovsky, and Brukab Sisay to name a few! 


Dylan Tran, Senior, American Ethnic Studies, Education, Communities, and Organizations

I grew up on the Hilltop and the Eastside of Tacoma, WA. I am studying Education and American Ethnic Studies. I am heavily involved in the Asian Pacific American student organizations on campus in addition to working three jobs on campus. I’m involved with RSO: API Cares About Mental Health, FASA sa UW, Khmer Student Association, and the Micronesian Islands Club. I’ve worked with the OMA&D Office of Multicultural Outreach and Recruitment as a student ambassador, with Student Legal Services as a legal assistant, with the Office of Admissions as a campus tour guide, and formerly worked with the Educational Opportunity Program as a teaching assistant.

I chose to study American Ethnic Studies because I grew up in a system that did not reinforce my self-worth as a person of color in society. Rather it made me feel as if there was competition between minority groups and made it seem we had to fight each other just to survive. In realizing the connections between my lived experiences with written policies and the intersections of other systems of oppression, I found my passion and purpose. My goal is to systematically rewrite narratives of survival into stories of resilience through curriculum and policy.

AAS 206 was the first time I ever saw myself in the textbook and on the other side of the classroom. It was the first time I got a chance to learn about my own people and history. AES 340 was imperative to helping me understand the educational system and the fight for equity in and outside the classroom. My plans after UW are to pursue graduate research in hopes of influencing policy. I hope to one day write policy myself. I wouldn't be where I am without the genuine love and support from mentors, peers, and my two younger sisters.


American Ethnic Studies congratulates Thien-Tu, Katrina, and Dylan on their recognition as members of the 2018 Husky 100!