Event Recap – Asian Studies 60th Anniversary Celebration (December 6)

2021 marks the 60th anniversary of the Department of Asian Studies, an anniversary of deep cultural significance in a variety of Asian societies. On December 6th, the Department hosted a celebration in honour of this milestone.

Due to challenges brought by the pandemic, the event took place online over Zoom. However, the accessibility of this virtual evening allowed over 200 Asian Studies students, faculty, staff, alumni, emeriti and friends of the Department from around the world to gather and partake in the festivities. For those who were not able to attend or want to re-experience the occasion, a recording is now available on our YouTube channel. Watch it below.


Before the event officially started, we heard from current faculty, emeriti and alumni, who reflected on their experiences in the Department and shared encouraging wishes for its future. Watch the testimonial video on our YouTube channel and below.


From left to right: Gurinder Mann, Christina Laffin, Aydin Quach

Christina Laffin (Associate Professor and alumna), Gurinder Mann (Lecturer and alumnus) and Aydin Quach (4th year student double majoring in Chinese Language and Culture as well as Honours History in International Relations) were gracious co-hosts who fostered a welcoming and celebratory space. After a brief introduction, Dr. Sharalyn Orbaugh, Department Head and Professor, welcomed attendees with warm opening remarks.

It is my honor to be the 10th Head of the Department, and it is my great good fortune to be Head at a time of prosperity and growth. Covid has certainly presented challenges, but even a global pandemic has hardly slowed us down.

Sharalyn Orbaugh, Department Head and Professor

Adjunct Professor and Musqueam Elder Larry Grant then provided the land acknowledgement for the Musqueam community in hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓, and offered touching remarks on the Department’s direction toward teaching and research related to Indigenous Asia.

“I truly feel that to understand different countries and different peoples that are there, it’s Indigenous people who are the true heart [and] feet of the land. So I truly want to say thank you and [share my] true appreciation of Asian Studies moving in that direction.”

Larry Grant, Musqueam Elder

UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Santa Ono also shared a few words to highlight the Department’s impressive to highlight the Department’s impressive student and faculty expansion, academic achievements, and history.

When the Department of Asian Studies was founded in 1961, it was the first such department in all of North America. Today, 60 years later, the Department is the leading Asian Studies program in Canada, and is recognized around the world.

Santa Ono, UBC President and Vice-Chancellor

Building on the history of the Department, Professor Joshua Mostow next had the honour of unveiling the Asian Studies Timeline. The digital timeline provides an interactive overview of the Department’s past and present milestones. Some highlights include the founding members of the Department, the creation of the Asian Studies tea flower logo, and and the seven-year construction process culminating in the Asian Centre, which is home to the Department today. During his presentation, Mostow also touched on the beginnings of various language programs, the numerous achievements of faculty over the years, and the growth in the number of students, faculty, and course offerings. Find the full timeline on the 60th Anniversary webpage here.

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The core of the celebration featured a series of testimonial videos compiled by students and faculty across different language programs and areas of study. These videos creatively showcased scholarly and cultural contributions, pedagogy, and community engagement, and were received enthusiastically by those attending. Watch them all on YouTube: Cantonese Language Program and Hong Kong Studies Initiative, Chinese Language Program and Chinese Studies, Hindi-Urdu Language Program, Japanese Language Program and Japanese Studies, Korean Language and Culture, Persian Language Program, Punjabi Language Program, Tibetan Buddhist and Nepali Studies and East Asian Buddhist Studies Research Program. A Day in the Life of the Asian Studies Staff video also provided an entertaining peek into the inner workings of the Department’s dedicated backend.

To create a sense of community within the virtual space, attendees took to the chat box to mingle with friends of the Department both old and new. Throughout the event, the chat was a collaborative venue thanks to the ongoing appearance of written messages (and emojis).

Professor and former Department Head Ross King also made an appearance to introduce the Department’s $60,000 fundraising campaign. The goal of the campaign is to provide support for graduate students, faculty research, and academic, student-centered, and public-facing programming. Find more information and donate here.

At the evening’s end, Dean of Arts Gage Averill provided closing remarks and commended the Department for its leadership in research, sustainability, and antiracism work, as well as its many collaborations with community supporters. He also shared his hope for the Department’s future in these areas.

When I think of the strength any department has to bring, it’s teaching, and you all do such an extraordinary job with that…I imagine the next 10 years to continue a great growth and an extension of the influence of our department across the campus and in interdisciplinary spaces.

Gage Averill, Dean of Arts

The 60th Anniversary Celebration provided a remarkable opportunity to hear from students, faculty, staff, alumni and emeriti of the Department. Above all else, this milestone illustrated the meaningful impact of the Department on an innumerable individuals over the last 60 years.

Thank you so much to all the attendees who joined us on this special evening! The Department wishes to give thanks to the faculty, staff, Work Learn students, and student volunteers who contributed to the planning of the event and the multi-media projects: Dongchen Hou, Ross King, Li-jung Lee, Joshua Mostow, Christopher Rea, Jeonghye Son, Zhaokun Xin, Hsiang-ning Sunnie Wang, Caleb Chang, Victoria Gong, Xiaohe Hu, Anh Luu, Janice Sun, Kai-Li Tan, Connie Yuchun Wu, Claudine Yip, Wenqi Zhang and Ying Zeng.

Written by Claudine Yip