OiYan Poon: SSCE Alumna Wins National Recognition for Scholarship and Research  

Assistant professor of higher education leadership at Colorado State honored by the Association for Asian American Studies and by NASPA.

OiYan Poon (’10, Ph.D.) has been honored with this year’s Engaged Scholar Award by the Association for Asian American Studies and the API KC Award for Outstanding Contribution to Research and Scholarship by NASPA (Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education). Poon has also been appointed Equity and Inclusion Chair for Division G for 2019-20 by the American Educational Research Association (AERA).

Poon, who earned her doctorate at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, credits her advisor, the late Professor Don Nakanishi and the division of Social Science and Comparative Education (SSCE) in giving her a lifechanging opportunity.

“I never planned to pursue a Ph.D. or to be a research scholar, so I didn’t have the educational profile typical of prospective Ph.D. students,” says Poon. “My advisor, the late Dr. Don Nakanishi and SSCE took a chance in admitting me to the program. As a student, I was encouraged to engage in transdisciplinary scholarship through the program curriculum requirements. 

“Also, Don challenged and supported me to become a publicly engaged scholar. He was actually the first recipient of the AAAS Engaged Scholar award in 2009. Having the opportunity to field media interviews even as a first-year Ph.D. student made me understand the critical importance of connecting research with real-world problems and public discourses and debates.”

Poon is an assistant professor of Higher Education Leadership at the School of Education and the director of the Race & Intersectional Studies for Education Equity (RISE) Center at Colorado State University. Her research focuses on the racial politics and discourses of college access, higher education organization and policy, affirmative action, and Asian Americans.

OiYan Poon (at right) was honored with the Emerging Scholar Award by the Association of Asian American Studies and Theo Goncalves, AAAS president. Photo by Florante Ibanez

Prior to joining the faculty at Colorado State University, Poon was an assistant professor of higher education at Loyola University Chicago, held a research associate position in the Institute for Asian American Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, and a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute of American Cultures/Asian American Studies Center at UCLA. Her research was recognized in 2016 with the Council for Ethnic Participation Mildred Garcia Junior Exemplary Scholarship Award from the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) and in 2014 with the ACPA: College Student Educators International Emerging Scholar Award.

Poon earned her doctorate at UCLA with an emphasis on race and ethnic studies in the division of Social Sciences & Comparative Education (SSCE). While at UCLA, Poon served as president of the University of California Student Association.

After earning her bachelor’s degree at Boston College and M.Ed. in college student affairs administration at the University of Georgia, Poon worked in multicultural student affairs, as the first Asian Pacific American Student Affairs director at George Mason University and the first Student Affairs Officer in Asian American Studies at UC Davis. She says that she hopes that representing so many “firsts” for Asian Americans in higher education and her current research agenda will “challenge education scholars and Asian American community advocates to confront the questions: What is racial equity in education, and what does it mean for Asian American communities?”

Poon has been a key advocate for the establishment of the federal AANAPISI (Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution) designation and a lead author of the 2018 amicus brief on behalf of 531 social scientists submitted in support of race-conscious admissions in the SFFA v. Harvard case.

Poon is currently working on a Spencer Foundation-funded study (https://chhs.source.colostate.edu/soe-assistant-professor-awarded-spencer-research-grant/) on how race-conscious holistic review works at highly selective post-secondary institutions, and completing a book manuscript titled, “Justice or Just Us: Asian Americans and the Racial Borderlands of Affirmative Action.” She recently gave a TEDx Talk at Colorado State University based on her book, discussing the ideological division between notions of racial justice and “just us,” how the current attacks on affirmative action offer an opportunity for Asian Americans and others, and the need for a renewed and transformative consciousness for racial justice through critical racial literacy.

Poon co-authored the articles, “The Racial Mascot Speaks: A critical race discourse analysis of Asian Americans and Fisher vs. University of Texas,” which was published by Johns Hopkins University Press in The Review of Higher Education, and “A Critical Review of the Model Minority Myth in Selected Literature on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Higher Education,” for The Review of Educational Research, a Sage Journal.

 

Photo courtesy of OiYan Poon