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Faculty & Staff
Professor Deenesh Sohoni (Sociology & APIA Studies)

Deenesh Sohoni is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) Studies at William & Mary. His research examines the significance of race, ethnicity, nativity, and citizenship status in a variety of social institutions such as education, the military, marriage, the media, and the law. His work has been published in academic journals such as Social Forces, Sociology of Education, Law and Society Review, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity among others.

For the APM Research Project, Professor Sohoni will be working with student researchers conducting archival research to create a list of early APM students, gather information on their experiences at W&M, and place these experiences within the legal and social context of race relations at the local, state and national level.

Assistant Professor Esther Kim (Education & APIA Studies)

Esther is an Assistant Professor in Curriculum & Instruction in the School of Education and Affiliate Faculty in Asian & Pacific Islander American Studies at William & Mary. Her teaching and research focus on representation in Social Studies with an emphasis on how racial and religious identities shape and are shaped by curricula.

Professor Chinua Thelwell (History & Africana Studies)

Chinua Thelwell is an Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies at William & Mary. He is a core faculty member of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Studies program—and teaches a course on Asian American history for the program. His research interests include: Afro-diasporic history, history of the idea of race, blackface minstrelsy as a popular culture export, performance studies, post-colonial hybridity theory, Asian American history, and hip-hop studies.

For the APM project, Thelwell will be conducting archival research cataloging the history of Asian and Asian American students at William & Mary.

Professor R. Benedito Ferrão (English & APIA Studies)

R. Benedito Ferrão in an Assistant Professor of English and Asian & Pacific Islander American Studies, with an affiliation in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. Dr. Ferrão was named a Fellow of the Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence at Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies (University of Bayreuth, Germany, 2020-21) and is also the recipient of a Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Research Award (2019-20). His scholarly and teaching interests are in Afro-Asiatic connections between Portuguese and British post/coloniality, as well as diaspora and transnational fiction with a focus on race, gender, and sexuality. In 2017-18, he curated the exhibition Goa/Portugal/Mozambique: The Many Lives of Vamona Navelcar at the Fundação Oriente gallery in Panjim, Goa and edited a book of the same title to accompany the retrospective (Fundação Oriente 2017). His scholarly writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Research in African Literatures, Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication, Society and Culture in South Asia, and recent edited books from Hong Kong University Press and Routledge. As an internationally published writer of creative fiction, non-fiction, and public commentary, his work can be read in The Wire, The Good Men Project, João Roque Literary Journal, and Mizna among other publications.

For the Asian Pacific Middle Eastern Research Project, Dr. Ferrão will work with diverse APIA writers who have a relationship to William & Mary and its environs. The object of this study to understand how the locale and its history influences their oeuvre.

Chancellor Professor Vivian Hamilton (William & Mary Law School) 

Vivian Hamilton is a Professor of Law at William & Mary Law School, where she teaches courses in Civil Procedure, Education Law, Family Law, and Race & Law. She is also an affiliate faculty member of the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program at the College of William & Mary. At the Law School, she serves as faculty advisor to the Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice, the Black Law Students Association, and the Equality Alliance. She is a founder and co-chair of the William & Mary Faculty of Color Network.

Jennie Davy (Special Collections, Swem Library) 

Exhibits and Artifacts Curator 

APM Project Student Researchers
Kara Park, '26, Public Policy & APIA Studies

Kara Park is a sophomore at William and Mary majoring in Public Policy and Asian Pacific Islander American Studies. Her research interests include oral history, assimilation, and the model minority myth. As a part of the APM research team, she has helped with the KAASE Initiative to research primary documents and contribute to the webpage for Asian American history teaching resources. In the future, she looks forward to uncovering more of the local history 

Outside of APM, Kara is the Activism Chair for the Asian American Student Initiative where she has created informational voting videos, presented on topics like Asian Diaspora in Latin America, and collaborated with other multicultural organizations. On campus, she is also involved with the Agape Christian Fellowship, House of Prayer, and co-hosts a Flat Hat podcast “Office Hours”.

Shravya Harish, '25, Biology 

Shravya Harish is a sophomore majoring in biology. She is primarily interested in conducting research concerning the effects of colonialism on South Asian health. As part of research team, Shravya would like to study the first South Asian students at William and Mary, and compare the experiences of international South Asian and South Asian American students. Shravya is also a part of SASA, Minorities in Medicine, as well as UAID as the president. When she's not studying or working night shifts at the ER, she likes to watch horror movies, write short stories, and play online trivia games.

Diana Kim, '25, APIA Studies & Government 

As part of the APM Research Project, Diana has done archival research with Special Collections and has had the privilege to conduct an oral history in researching the first three Asian-American women at William & Mary. She has also worked on developing Asian-American history lesson plans for widely available use in schools. She hopes Virginia’s K-12 curriculum will include more Asian American stories and voices and for Asian American students to feel more empowered to speak up for themselves and others. 

Outside of academic pursuits, you can see Diana hanging out with friends, running around campus, and collecting vinyl records. She enjoys hearing life stories and philosophies and working with the beloved Asian American Student Initiative (AASI), the Asian-American advocacy group on campus. 

Crystal Wang, ‘25, History and English 

Crystal is a sophomore majoring in English and History. She's interested in finding the lasting impacts of Asian American history at William & Mary. As part of the research team, Crystal is excited to find and study the first Asian American faculty who made lasting changes at William & Mary. She also peer reviews for the James Blair Historical Review and is a part of many other campus publications. In her free time, she likes writing poetry, practicing archery, and taking late night walks with friends. 

Collin Absher, '24, Chinese and APIA Studies 

Collin Absher is a senior at William and Mary majoring in Chinese Studies and APIA studies and serves as the APIA studies chair to the Asian American Student Initiative. He found himself as a welcome nontraditional member to this community through experiences in academic, political, and cultural spheres. Collin has had the honor of working in the Philippines as a Freeman Fellow and studying in Taiwan as a Boren and Gilman Scholar to further his understanding of the world as a global citizen. As a member of the APM research team, he focuses on translating archival documents from Chinese to English and focusing on related histories that contextualize the Asian American diaspora and experience.

His current research focuses on the restructuring of Heritage Learner Mandarin classes to include Chinese and Asian American history in order to strengthen social and ethnic identity of Chinese American youth, He is impassioned to use ethnic languages as tools for a means of decolonizing marginalized peoples by courageously reclaiming one’s history.

Alex Park, '24, APIA Studies and International Relations

Alex Park is an International Relations and Asian and Pacific Islander American Studies. Her research interest includes immigration and migration, assimilation, mixed-race identity, and Asian-American history. As a member of the APM team, Alex has contributed to archival research, oral histories, and exhibit curation concerning the first three Asian Ancestry women to go to William and Mary. Moving forward, Alex is excited to contribute to research concerning the first Asian faculty at William and Mary and work on the KAASE initiative.

Outside of APM, Alex is a member of Tribetones acapella, KASA, CSO, and AASI. In her free time, Alex can be found cooking, watching movies, playing guitar, or hanging out with friends. 

Brian Zhao '23, APIA Studies and Asian & Middle Eastern Studies

Brian Zhao's current research interests include the intersection of critical ethnic studies, postcolonial studies, and intellectual history within US academia. In his free time, he can be found cooking with his trusty cast-iron skillet or watching his friend’s collegiate and professional basketball games on television. When he’s not jamming out to Olivia Rodrigo or Paramore, there’s a good chance that he’s reading work from Cedric Robinson, CLR James, or Walter Rodney.

As a seasoned researcher with numerous past experiences working in digital and physical archives, Brian has served an invaluable role as a member of the APM Research Project team by helping uncover the lived-experiences and historical context of numerous of the first Asian and Asian-American students at William & Mary. Over the course of the coming months, Brian looks forward to building out the organizational infrastructure needed to sustain the broader, long-term efforts of the APM Research Project.

Asian Centennial Law Research Fellow
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Yusuf Jafri (William & Mary Law School)

Hello, my name is Yusuf Jafri and I am a research fellow with the Center for Racial & Social Justice currently working on the 1921-2021 Centennial Commemoration of Asians and Asian Americans at William & Mary. I am currently a 2L at the W&M Law School, sit on the board for two international-oriented clubs, and have a demonstrated interest in Immigration Law through an externship I completed at Roth Jackson. I am a proud South Asian and Muslim American, and I recognize the importance of recording and publicizing the stories of the Asian and Asian American community here in Virginia and at William & Mary. I hope the research we are doing here will be a permanent reminder of where we come from, how far we have come, and how far we have left to go.