Brandeis prof. and advocate for AAPI program leaves for University of Hawai’i

September 13, 2019

Dr. Leanne Day—a professor who has advocated for the creation of an Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Studies Program at Brandeis—has decided to take another university position in Hawai’i, where they have demonstrated a need for the AAPI studies program, said the Brandeis Asian American Task Force (BAATF) in a statement. 

Day decided to leave Brandeis in summer 2019 to take a position at the University of Hawai’i after the completion of her two year residency as a Florence Levy Kay postdoctoral fellow in spring 2019. Day received an offer from Brandeis for a one year position but would have to re-apply for the position or find a new job after the school year was out.

Day ultimately decided to leave Brandeis because of the lack of opportunity the university was able to offer. 

“The UH Hilo [University of Hawai’i at Hilo] position was about PI [Pacific Islander] and centering PI voices and in a community I feel very strongly about,” she told The Hoot. 

Day accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa (UH Manoa) for fall 2019 and a tenure-track position at UH Hilo in Pacific Islander, Hawai’i, and Asian American literary and cultural studies—according to a statement released by the BAATF.

The dual position means that she will not have to reapply for her position but will immediately go into a tenure-track professorship following the completion of her postdoctoral work. 

Day believes the biggest impact she will leave on Brandeis campus is “raising the consciousness that PI is not equivalent to AA [Asian American],” she told The Hoot in an interview. “The students are recognizing those differences and have the tools and intellectual knowledge to support why they’re different…They have the tools to articulate and advocate and show that one is not higher than the other.” 

Day’s departure from Brandeis does not invalidate the support of an AAPI Studies program on campus, said BAATF in a statement. Day’s departure is instead a call for the urgency of this type of program. The Task Force submitted a formal petition with over 500 signatures from the Brandeis community for a faculty position in Pacific Islander Studies to university management in spring 2019—according to their statement. 

Through this petition and other work by Task Force, Yuri Doolan was hired as the first tenure-track assistant professor in AAPI Studies at Brandeis, according to an earlier Hoot article. 

Day has two main hopes for the AAPI Studies program at Brandeis. The first is that it remains a collaborative effort between the students and faculty. 

“I hope it is a concerted effort to build together,” she told The Hoot. “And it’s an ongoing conversation that is collaborative.” 

Her second hope is that the program maintains longevity. Day believes that the only way to maintain the program in the long run is to hire more professors in order to make the program last. 

“I hope the program continues beyond this particular group of students,” she said. 

Day initially chose to come to Brandeis for her postdoctoral work when she visited campus and met with BAATF members in March 2017.

Day explained how researching a school online significantly differs from being on campus and interacting with students. “I felt really inspired by what they [the Task Force] was doing and that was reinforced by the way that the faculty talked about these students,” Day told The Hoot in an interview. 

While at Brandeis, Day’s postdoctoral research looked towards converting her dissertation into a book manuscript. Her first year at Brandeis focused on converting just one chapter into a publishable article, while during her second year, she revised her entire dissertation for her manuscript. 

Day will continue with her postdoctoral work while at the UH Manoa. There, she will focus on a different angle of Pacific Islander studies by studying the manuscripts of former Senator Daniel Inouye. Even though this is a new project, Day explained there is much overlap in the topics that she’s studying. 

Day decided to go into AAPI Studies when she was in college after randomly signing up for an introductory AAPI course. After completing her senior thesis on Hawai’i and local literature and taking a few gap years, Day felt like she still didn’t answer all the questions that her senior thesis asked, which is what led her to want to pursue AAPI Studies as a career. 

She also noticed the different nuances of ethnic studies groups on the east coast compared to the west coast. Day was raised in Hawai’i and completed her education all along the west coast of the U.S. 

“I went to west coast [schools] that had a strong ethnic studies consciousness,” she told The Hoot. “It was almost surprising to see that all the country’s universities were not like that.” 

“[African and Afro-American Studies] AAAS helps build the demand and awareness, and because of this, I really believe indigenous studies is really flourishing,” she said. She noticed that AAAS programs were very strong on the east coast but believes that there is a growing variety of ethnic studies on the east coast.

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