The Provost’s Office has recently announced that Sam C. Vong will join the Gustavus faculty in the fall of 2013 as the college’s first Bruce Gray Postdoctoral Fellow.
Vong earned an undergraduate degree in sociology from the University of California, Berkley and holds a Master’s degree in history from California State University, Los Angeles. Vong will earn a Ph.D in History from Yale University this summer.
“Sam is a really warm person. He asked lots of great questions, and also made an effort to get to know me as a person. This will make him a natural addition to the History department, as all of the professors there are the same way.
Sam will also bring an expertise on issues that the department has been emphasizing in recent years, particularly global connections created by phenomena like mass migrations of people across the world. In particular, he brings a focus on Asian-American culture that will be new to the department. I think that this focus will make Sam a welcome addition to the campus in general as well,” Senior History Major Jon Doolittle said.
Vong’s teachings examine issues of race, ethnicity, and migration in 20th century, concentrating on Asians in United States history. His doctoral research focused on Immigration to the U.S. from Vietnam around the time of the Vietnam War.
“We’re excited to have Sam Vong join us next year since he exemplifies many of the priorities that the History Department has identified for itself. As we adopted a new structure for our history major and minor, we wanted to place even more emphasis on courses that look at different parts of the world and on courses that show how the world’s regions have been tied together over time. Sam’s work on immigration to the US, which focuses specifically on Southeast Asian immigrants, is an ideal fit for the department,” History Professor and Chair Sujay Rao said.
Vong will be teaching a special topics seminar in the fall entitled, “Migration and Race in the United States, 1840s to the Present.” The course will explore relationships of race, class, and gender in the U.S. and diverse groups of immigrants at different moments in U.S. history, and how these relationships helped to shape and continue to shape the experiences of immigrant communities and the United States.
“We know from meeting him that he has great energy and has a wonderful sense of humor. We could not be more pleased that he will join us,” Dean and Provost of the College Mark Braun said.
Vong will also bring a great deal of expertise in the history of Southeast Asian resettlement programs for refugee groups widely known as “boat people,” from the 1970s through the 1990s. In addition to English, he speaks both Cantonese and Vietnamese, and has connections to communities both in the US and in Vietnam. He also has a strong interest in the history of gender and family relations.
“Students have been very excited about the course, which is already over-enrolled. In the spring, he’ll be teaching our course on US history since the Civil War, bringing his expertise on immigration and race to an even broader audience,” Rao said.
Vong has been invited to the college as the first Bruce Gray Postdoctoral Fellow, a position named for Bruce Gray ’61 who spent 44 years as an administrator at Gustavus in the offices of Admission and Advancement.
“Decades ago, Bruce Gray helped promote a more inclusive vision of Gustavus as an institution that was welcoming to and interested in students of diverse backgrounds. By creating the Bruce Gray Postdoctoral Fellowship, the college is recognizing that tradition and honoring his work. We’ve come a long way, but I think all of us still recognize that we still face challenges in being the institution we want to be. The Postdoctoral Fellowship will play a key role in bringing scholars to campus who will diversify the curriculum and work to support students from diverse backgrounds,” Rao said.
In addition to teaching one course in the Fall and one in the Spring, Vong will spend additional time researching, writing and possibly informally advising students in the Diversity Center and the Kendell Center for Engaged Learning.
“In addition to the work he will do in the history department, we expect that Sam will connect with students who have interests in diversity, GWS, multi-lingual learners, social justice movements, and refugee immigration history,” Braun said.
“I know that he is dedicated to bringing a more diverse perspective to campus, both on a personal and a scholastic level. I think this is necessary because, as an institution, it can be very easy for us to become insulated from different perspectives. Bringing in scholars, like Sam Vong, who work on topics that have not been considered at Gustavus before can help to break us out of intellectual ruts, even if we didn’t know we were in them to begin with,” Doolittle said.
The Bruce Gray Postdoctoral position is expected to move from department to department in ensuing years in accordance to individual department and campus wide needs.
“I found Sam to be very excited about working with students in a classroom setting, as well as working with the Diversity Center on campus-wide issues and programs. I believe that Sam will do really excellent work at Gustavus, both in and out of the classroom,” Doolittle said.