2018-19 Don T. Nakanishi Award for Outstanding Engaged Scholarship Awarded to Graduate Student Mike Hoa Nguyen and Undergraduate Student Daniel Luu

Dear Alumni and Friends,

I am very pleased to announce that Graduate Student Mike Hoa Nguyen and Undergraduate Student Daniel Luu are the recipients of the 2018-19 Don T. Nakanishi Award for Outstanding Engaged Scholarship in Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies at UCLA.

Graduate Recipient

Mike Hoa NguyenMike Hoa Nguyen received his B.A. in American Studies with a minor in Asian American Studies from UC Berkeley. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. in Education from UCLA. In Fall 2019, he will join the University of Denver, Department of Higher Education as a tenure-track Assistant Professor. Faculty that nominated Mike highly regarded him for his deep commitment to community through research, teaching, and activism. A professor noted, "He embodies the spirit of Don through his scholarship and political engagement. As with Don, his work consistently bridges academic scholarship with the most underserved Asian American and Pacific Islander communities and populations."

Mike's research has contributed greatly to the fields of Asian American Studies and Education. He has published extensively on the impact of Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISI). In particular, his dissertation examines if and how designation funding contributes to building campus capacity for advancing civic engagement. His work has documented the role that AANAPISIs play in empowering the most underserved students to transform their institutions and communities, while advancing a more positive, just, and democratic society. As a result, Mike received a very competitive UCLA Dissertation Year Fellowship to help support this important study. A community leader commented, "His policy-orientated research on AANAPISIs has been critical for building an argument for increased funding for these programs and more educational resources for AAPI students."

Mike's scholarship is enriched by his experience working in government. Before enrolling at UCLA, Mike was a key staffer in Congressman Mike Honda's 17th Congressional District office, where he oversaw federal funding for institutions that serve a disproportionally high number of economically challenged Asian Americans who were recent immigrants and Pacific Islanders. One professor expressed, "While many of my current and former students are exceptional scholars, only Mike adds the political engagement dimension that made Don's work so impactful and inspirational. It is highly unlikely that I will ever have the great pleasure of advising another doctoral student who had a city mayor, in this case Mayor Evan Low, proclaim a special day in his honor - June 17 is "Mike Hoa Nguyen Day" in Campbell city."

Since coming to UCLA, Mike has published four peer-reviewed journal articles, three book chapters, and a dozen other reports and briefs that focus on Asian American and Pacific Islander populations. His published articles are in the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, Review of Higher Education, AAPI Nexus Journal and the Harvard Asian American Policy Review. His service to communities is equally outstanding, earning him several recognitions including Certificates of Recognition and Commendations from U.S. Congressman Mike Honda and California State Assembly Members Paul Fong, Joe Coto, and Ash Kalra. "Mike's expertise and perspective has been immensely helpful in our own work focused on expanding educational opportunities for AAPIs...his research helped create factsheets and resources related to the Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard lawsuit," said a community leader. Moreover, Mike taught a policy course last Fall 2018 for the Asian Pacific Studies Department at California State University, Dominguez Hills. With the Nakanishi Award, we recognize Mike Hoa Nguyen for his tremendous research, voluntarism, and teaching efforts that exemplify extraordinary engaged Asian American Studies scholarship.

Undergraduate Recipient

Daniel LuuDaniel Luu graduated this June 2019 with a B.A. in Asian American Studies and a minor in Urban & Regional Studies from UCLA. This Fall, he will begin a Master's degree program in Urban Planning at UCLA. Those who nominated Daniel underscored his qualities as an incredible scholar, able to fuse research and artistry with community engagement. "I believe Daniel is as much an artist as he is a scholar, and that these two perspectives nurture one another, making his work more compelling and powerful," said a community leader.

Daniel's work with the Missing Piece Project demonstrates how he seamlessly integrates his scholarship with his creative process as a filmmaker and community engagement efforts. The Missing Piece Project is a public art project that calls for a collective dedication of objects by Southeast Asian refugee community members at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC on each April 30 (the anniversary of the "end" of the war, and the beginning of many refugee journeys). The Missing Piece Project's dedication of objects is meant to act as a physical and symbolic intervention that disrupts the mainstream ways in which the US remembers (and forgets) the war, that have made invisible the past and continuing effects of militarism and imperialism on Southeast Asian refugee communities, which they still face today. Daniel was not only engaged in historical research about the effects of the Vietnam War, he also conducted interviews with community members, directed, filmed, and edited a documentary short that featured the Missing Piece Project's progress. Daniel's documentary short screened at the 2019 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and provided tremendous visibility for the Missing Piece Project.

Daniel's contributions have also helped fill the gaps in the literature and field of Asian American Studies by helping to tell the unheard stories of Southeast Asians. As a research assistant for the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge (CNK), he worked with a professor, staff researchers and students to examine the impacts of gentrification on the Cambodian community in Long Beach. These efforts resulted in creating excellent videos documenting gentrification in relation to Cambodian small businesses and housing displacement, which are viewable at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSDCRYNokxtnmlnS2LgrQ-A.

Beyond his work with CNK, Daniel has developed a strong background in community service and leadership through working with several student and non-profit organizations. Recently, he collaborated with the UCLA United Khmer Students to develop a play around the issue of deportation for Cambodian Culture Night. Daniel was successful in applying for funding from the University of California's Critical Refugee Initiative to secure a venue for their performance in Long Beach, a first time for the student group. In addition, he is working with VietUnity and community organizations in Long Beach to study the impacts of deportation and accumulated stress on health outcomes of the Cambodian community. A professor stated, "He has demonstrated a serious dedication to gaining insight about social justice issues and sharing knowledge with disadvantaged communities, which can assist them with their advocacy efforts." With the Nakanishi Award, we recognize Daniel Luu for his remarkable scholarship, community engagement, and filmmaking in transforming Southeast Asian communities.

It is the pleasure of the Asian American Studies Center to recognize Mike Hoa Nguyen and Daniel Luu for their outstanding practical research, publications, teaching, training, and educational service to Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

Through the generosity of UCLA faculty, students, staff, and alumni as well as community leaders, an endowment was established that honors the late Professor Emeritus Don T. Nakanishi, who served on the UCLA faculty for thirty-five years and who ably directed the Asian American Studies Center from 1990-2010. Among his invaluable contributions to Asian American Studies, Professor Nakanishi co-founded two, national publications: Amerasia Journal (1971) and AAPI Nexus Journal: Asian American and Pacific Islander Policy, Practice, and Community Research (2003). Professor Nakanishi published widely in the areas of Asian American politics and education, mentored thousands of students, and provided professional and community-based service locally, nationally, and internationally.

The Nakanishi Award includes a $2,500 cash prize award for each recipient. The award rotates annually between faculty and students. The faculty award will be given during the 2019-2020 academic year.

Please join us in congratulating Mike Hoa Nguyen and Daniel Luu!

Best wishes,
Karen Umemoto
Director & Professor