LJ Karam: Life as an Asian American Studies Minor

An interview conducted by Jason O. Chang, Director of the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute, with LJ Karam, an undergraduate at the University of Connecticut majoring in Economics and minoring in Asian American Studies.

Chang: Tell us a little about yourself and what you do at UConn.

Karam: My name is LJ Karam, and I’m a senior Economics major and Asian American Studies minor. I’m the President of Women and Minorities in Economics, a club dedicated to the empowerment, support, and engagement of women and minorities in the field of Economics. I’m the Fundraising Chair for China Care, an Asian American Cultural Center program that organizes monthly cultural heritage enrichment playgroups for children adopted from China by American families. The program teaches the children about their Chinese roots, while providing Asian American UConn students the opportunity to mentor kids who can look up to them as a role model who actually looks like them. I am also involved in WHUS, the student radio station, where I cover stories for the News Department as well as acting as one of four hosts who anchors a UConn news show on the FM station. Lastly, I’m highly involved in the Husky Scholars program, where I work as a Student Coordinator for the HuskyReads program. This program is a service-learning course where students have the opportunity to go into Hartford preschools and teach 3-4 year-olds about healthy eating and exercise in an effort to creative positive associations between happiness and living a healthy lifestyle.

Chang: I understand that you didn’t know about Asian American studies when you started at UConn but now your are minoring in it. What was it that drew you to this degree?   Was there a class that was particularly compelling?

Karam: When I was a sophomore, I took Professor Chang’s Asian American Experience Since 1850 class, and it totally changed my perspective on what it meant to be an Asian American, and it enriched my knowledge on the perspectives of many other Asian Americans of other ethnicities. I learned so much more about my own familial background, and it helped me to get a big picture about how the history of Asian Americans has shaped their present. It also gave the opportunity to engage other Asian Americans, and get them interested in really knowing more about how the history of the United States has shaped their own family’s immigrant experience.

Chang: What do you plan to do after UConn? How do you think minoring in Asian American studies will help you?

Karam: After UConn, I definitely plan on going forth to some sort of higher degree. As for what it actually is, that remains to be seen. I’ve been looking at a host of Public Policy, PhD, and law programs. Minoring in Asian American studies has really helped me to tune into the type of studies and service I’m really passionate about. It has made me really think about the importance of having representation in mentorship roles, and has made me want to do everything I can in order to be a figure in the Asian American community that can inspire others who look like me.