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Chinese Americans: Compelled to Excel

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Date and time
Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Vivian Louie, drawing on interviews with second-generation Chinese Americans attending a public, commuter university and a highly selective private university, discusses the power that race and class play in shaping educational experiences. Louie's work is introduced by Mary Waters, chair of the department of sociology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. Panelists will include Suzanne Lee, principal of the Josiah Quincy School in Boston, and Peter Law, senior guidance counselor at Charlestown High School. In the contemporary American imagination, Asian Americans are considered the quintessential immigrant success story, a powerful example of how the culture of immigrant families (rather than race and class) matters in education and upward mobility. Louie finds that Chinese immigrant families see higher education as a necessary safeguard against potential racial discrimination, and class shapes different paths to college. The views and experiences of Chinese Americans with schooling and the identities they are forming have much to do with the opportunities, challenges and contradictions that immigrants and their children confront in the United States.

MARY C. WATERS is the M.E. Zukerman Professor of Sociology at Harvard University. She specializes in the study of immigration, inter-group relations, the formation of racial and ethnic identity among the children of immigrants, and the challenges of measuring race and ethnicity. Waters received a B.A. in Philosophy from Johns Hopkins University in 1978, an M.A. in Demography (1981) and an M.A. (1983) and PhD in Sociology (1986) from the University of California at Berkeley. She has taught at Harvard University since 1986, and was chair of the Sociology Department from 2001-2005 and acting chair, Spring 2007. Waters has won wide recognition for her teaching and advising, including six prizes for undergraduate teaching. She was named a Harvard College Professor 1999-2004 to honor excellence in teaching. She was director of the Undergraduate Program in Sociology from 1993-2001. Her lecture for graduate students Teaching, *Research and Having a Life* is a popular video at the Derek Bok Center for Teaching at Harvard University.