Pacific Crossings: Asian American and Pacific Islander Histories, 1870 to the Present

Pacific Crossings

Asian American and Pacific Islander Histories, 1870 to the Present


This two-week NEH Summer Institute addresses the needs of grade 6–12 educators looking to expand their knowledge of Asian American and Pacific Islander histories in the United States.


Stipend: $2,200
Dates: July 7–20, 2024
Location: Occidental College in Los Angeles, California
Application Deadline: CLOSED - Tuesday, March 5, 2024


Image Source: Immigrants Arriving at the Immigration Station on Angel Island, San Francisco, California, ca. 1931. (National Archives and Records Administration, Public Health Service Historical Photograph File, 1880-1943)

A group of immigrants arriving at Angel Island.
  • 70 PD Hours

  • $2,200 Stipend

Program Overview

Pacific Crossings: Asian American and Pacific Islander Histories, 1870 to the Present will illuminate the long history of resistance by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and their allies in struggles to realize a vision of the United States as a liberal, multiracial democracy across a wide geographical space. While the institute will take place in Los Angeles—an important site in Asian American and Pacific Islander histories and communities—lectures, discussions, and readings will highlight diverse experiences across the country and the Pacific Ocean. This expansive geographical lens recognizes that although Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been concentrated in the US West and the Pacific, there are no parts of the US where both groups have not settled. The expertise of presenters will reflect the institute’s national and even transnational scope, featuring scholars specializing in histories that span the United States and the Asia-Pacific world.

The thirty-six educators selected for this program will be provided with thorough, research-based content knowledge and resources easily adaptable to their classrooms. This institute will feature leading scholars on Asian American and Pacific Islander histories and experiences as well as representatives from these communities, thereby letting the Asian and Pacific Islanders who made and are making history share their own history.

Institute Content

Themes and Goals

Within the broad study of Asian American and Pacific Islander history, the theme of the program will center on the expansion of the US Pacific region. The institute’s Pacific framing will accomplish the following intellectual and pedagogical goals:

  • Reveal the importance of US expansion and empire in the Pacific and American militarism in shaping US migration and ethnic/racial histories
  • Complicate the traditional understandings of race in America through a Black–White racial binary, which have become increasingly ill-suited to the complex demographics of a multiracial America, and examine how the histories of AAPI people were inextricably linked with each other and the histories of Latino/a, Native American, Black, and White Americans across different periods of US history


The lectures and readings will also interrogate the coupling of Asian American and Pacific Islander histories and experiences under the category of “AAPI.” Taking a bird’s-eye view, the institute will address how and why these two fields of academic study became connected and elucidate the entanglement and the fundamental distinctions between the experiences of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Content Organization

Topics are organized chronologically, beginning with the formal abolition of slavery and Reconstruction, continuing to US expansion and the Spanish-American War and World Wars I and II, addressing Cold War topics including the Korean and Vietnam wars, and culminating with the post-9/11 War on Terror. The institute will model how educators might integrate AAPI history and experiences into their US history curricula by changing the framework and orientation of familiar topics to look toward the Pacific.

Teaching Literacy through History

The activities combine rich content with teaching strategies based on the Gilder Lehrman Institute’s Teaching Literacy through History™ (TLTH) pedagogy, which will help participants become more effective American history educators. TLTH is a hands-on, multi-modal approach that integrates primary sources and nonfiction historical texts in the classroom and enhances student literacy.

Required Readings

The following book will be provided to participants at no cost prior to the institute.

  • Catherine Ceniza Choy, Asian American Histories of the United States (New York: Beacon Press, 2022)


The two-week institute consists of ten days of discussions, pedagogy sessions, and field trips (with breaks for lunch and office hours). Participants will have the weekend between the first and second week off. Each day focuses on key primary sources and the latest interpretations of major historical events and periods relating to AAPI history. View a draft of the full schedule here.

Activities are subject to change. A final schedule will be provided to the participants.

In-person and Online Field Trips

The in-person aspect of the institute allows for place-based and object-based learning opportunities at museums and archives in the greater Los Angeles area. A tentative list of sites includes the Chinese American Museum, the Japanese American National Museum, and the Southeast Asian Archive at the University of California-Irvine.

  • Chinese American Museum. On the second full day of the institute participants will visit the Chinese American Museum to view exhibits that celebrate the growth and development of Chinese American enclaves across Los Angeles and greater California. All of the exhibits are wheelchair accessible.
  • Japanese American National Museum. To conclude the first week of the institute, participants will visit the JANM to tour collections chronicling 130 years of Japanese American history, from the “early days of the Issei pioneers through the World War II incarceration to the present.” During the visit, Karalee Nakatsuka, the institute’s master teacher, and museum staff will lead teachers in a 45-minute session on how to teach the history of Japanese American incarceration—with an emphasis on community resilience and resistance—through the use of primary source documents. All of the floors of the JANM are accessible by wheelchair.
  • Southeast Asian Archive at the University of California-Irvine. To supplement Professor Thuy Vo Dang’s morning session on post-Vietnam refugee migrations, participants will learn about the history of the Cambodian, Hmong, Laotian, and Vietnamese diaspora through an online visit to the Southeast Asian Archive at UC Irvine. The visit will also include a short pedagogical session and discussion on the UCI campus introducing teachers to the digital sources available in the archive. 


Core Project Team

Headshot of Jane Hong

Jane Hong, Project Director

Professor Hong is an associate professor of history at Occidental College who teaches and writes on US immigration and engagement with the world, with a focus on Asia after World War II. A former high school teacher, she has led previous workshops and PD sessions for the Gilder Lehrman Institute. Her first book, Opening the Gates to Asia: A Transpacific History of How America Repealed Asian Exclusion, provides a comprehensive history of the transpacific movement behind the repeal of America’s Asian exclusion laws. In June 2018, she worked with thirty-three California public school teachers as lead instructor for a Gilder Lehrman professional development program titled “US Immigration through a California Lens.” She has also led the Institute’s How Did We Get Here? professional development program on aspects of Asian American history, focusing on the period from 1875 to the present. Professor Hong has also contributed to the 2020 Peabody Award–winning PBS documentary Asian Americans and the 2021 PBS World documentary Far East Deep South.

Headshot of Karalee Wong Nakatsuka

Karalee Wong Nakatsuka, Master Teacher

Karalee Wong Nakatsuka is an eighth-grade history teacher at First Avenue Middle School in the Arcadia Unified School District in California. The 2019 Gilder Lehrman California History Teacher of the Year, she was featured in Time magazine’s “From Teachers to Custodians, Meet the Educators Who Saved a Pandemic School Year” following the changes she made to her curriculum during a period of continuing hate crimes against Asian Americans. In 2022, she served as a master teacher at the inaugural Gilder Lehrman Teacher Symposium.

Guest Instructors and Speakers

Headshot of Asad Dandia

Asad Dandia

Asad Dandia, a Pakistani American activist and co-founder of Muslims Giving Back, focuses on how the post-9/11 War on Terror heightened the persecution of South Asians.

Headshot of Thuy Von Dang

Thuy Vo Dang

Thuy Vo Dang, an assistant professor of information studies at UCLA, specializes in archival studies, oral history, the Southeast Asian diaspora, and Asian American communities.

Headshot of Alfred Pedro Flores

Alfred Peredo Flores

Alfred Peredo Flores, an assistant professor of Asian American studies at Harvey Mudd College, is a leading scholar on the constriction of the US empire in Oceania with a specific focus on diaspora, labor, indigeneity, militarization, oral history, and settler colonialism.

Headshot of Daryl Maeda

Daryl Maeda

Daryl Maeda, a professor of ethnic studies and the dean and vice provost of undergraduate education at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is a leading scholar on Asian American history, comparative ethnic studies, radical social movements, the 1960s and ’70s, and transnational culture.

Headshot of JoAnna Poblete

JoAnna Poblete

JoAnna Poblete, a professor of history at Claremont Graduate School, is an expert on studies of colonialism and empire, migration and labor, and Asian American and Pacific Islander studies.

Headshot of Kiki Rivera

Kiki Rivera

Kiki Rivera, is an internationally produced, award-winning theater artist, educator, and arts activist whose work focuses on contemporary challenges facing local Pacific Islander communities.

Headshot of Seema Sohi

Seema Sohi

Seema Sohi, an associate professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, specializes in Asian American studies, critical ethnic studies, citizenship, and social movements.

Headshot of Renee Tajima Pena

Renee Tajima-Peña

Renee Tajima-Peña, an Academy Award–nominated filmmaker and professor of Asian American studies and the director of the Center for EthnoCommunications at UCLA, specializes in the representation and documentation of Asian American and immigrant communities, gender, reproductive justice, labor activism, media, and law.

Headshot of Susie Woo

Susie Woo

Susie Woo, an associate professor of American studies at California State University, Fullerton, is an expert on the Cold War, US-Korea relations, and migration.

Headshot of Do Kim

Do Kim

Do Kim is a civil rights attorney based in Los Angeles, California. Kim was a member of the Black-Korean Alliance, and in the wake of Sa I Gu, he worked with the Korean American Inter-Agency Council to provide relief efforts to affected Korean American merchants.

Additional Information


Before applying for the institute, please ensure that you have read all of the information about the program.

When does the application open?

The application opened on December 15, 2023.

When is the application deadline?

The application closed at 11:59 p.m. PT on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. This date is the same across all NEH Institutes.

What do I need to submit in my application?

Those interested in applying will need to explain in 500 words or less what they hope to gain from this program and how it could affect their classroom practice.

Where do I apply?

The application has closed.


Am I eligible?

Click here to read the full participant eligibility criteria set by the NEH. 

You are eligible to apply if you are a

  • United States citizen, including those teaching abroad at US chartered institutions and schools operated by the federal government;
  • resident of US jurisdictions; or
  • foreign national who has been residing in the United States or its jurisdictions for at least the three years immediately preceding the application deadline

You are not eligible to apply if you

  • are a foreign national teaching abroad
  • are related to the project director(s)
  • are affiliated with the applicant institution (employees, currently enrolled students, etc.)
  • have been taught or advised in an academic capacity by the project director(s)
  • are delinquent in the repayment of federal debt (taxes, student loans, child support payments, and delinquent payroll taxes for household or other employees)
  • have been debarred or suspended by any federal department or agency
  • have attended a previous NEH professional development project (Seminars, Landmarks, or Institutes) led by the project director(s)

Selection Criteria

Who should apply?

While all current K–12 educators are eligible for this program, the content is curated for middle (6–8) and high school (9–12) educators. Educators who have not previously participated in an NEH Professional Development Program are highly encouraged to apply. Eight spaces will be reserved for educators who have been teaching for five years or fewer.

Who is on the selection committee?

The selection committee will consist of the Project Director, a K–12 teacher, the Gilder Lehrman Director of Curriculum Development and Instructional Design, and a Gilder Lehrman Project Consultant.

What will the selection committee consider when evaluating applications?

  • The applicant’s effectiveness and commitment as a teacher/educator
  • The applicant’s intellectual interests as they relate to the topic of the institute
  • The applicant’s special perspectives, skills, or experiences that would contribute to the program
  • Evidence that participation will have a long-term impact on the applicant’s teaching
  • Special qualifications, such as foreign language proficiency, that may pertain to the topic

Selection Process

How many people will be accepted?

The Gilder Lehrman Institute will accept only thirty-six participants.

When will I learn if I’ve been accepted?

Those who are accepted will be notified on April 5, 2024. Those who are waitlisted or declined will also be notified on April 5, 2024. Applicants who are accepted will have until April 19, 2024, to accept or decline their spot.

Is there anything I should know if I accept the offer?

While applicants can apply to a maximum of two NEH Institutes or Landmarks programs, they can only participate in one program. Once an applicant has accepted an offer to attend any NEH Summer Program (Institute or Landmark), they may not accept an additional offer or withdraw in order to accept a different offer.

Professional Development Hours

Participants will earn 70 credit hours for participating in the NEH Institute. Upon completing the NEH Institute, participants will receive a certificate with their name and the number of credit hours earned. 

Gilder Lehrman professional development programs are generally eligible for CEU and PDP credits, but it is the responsibility of the participant to verify eligibility with their school administration or state PD office. The Institute is an approved provider of professional development in Massachusetts, Montana, New York, Texas, and Washington State, and in Michigan through a partnership with the Michigan Council for History Education. Please email us at for more information regarding eligibility.


Can I stay at Occidental College?

Participants are highly encouraged to accept housing from Occidental College. If participants choose to stay at the dorm, a portion of their stipend will be used to cover the cost. This cost will be significantly cheaper than lodging alternatives in the surrounding area.

Note this event is not sponsored by or otherwise endorsed by Occidental College.

Can I stay somewhere else?

Participants who wish to arrange their own accommodations should be aware that hotels in the immediate area can cost up to $300 per night. Accommodations at Occidental College will be substantially less.


Where can I eat?

Participants who stay on campus will have the opportunity to take advantage of Occidental College’s dining halls and Los Angeles’s wide variety of fine and casual dining options. Participants will receive more detailed information about housing, dining, and travel.


What is the stipend?

Those who are selected for the Pacific Crossings Institute will be awarded a stipend of $2,200 to help cover the cost of housing, meals, and travel.

Can I apply my stipend towards housing and dining?

As stated on the Housing and Dining pages, participants who elect to stay at Occidental College will have their stipend reduced to cover that cost. The stipend balance will then be issued to participants at check-in on July 7, 2024. For those who choose to arrange their own lodging, the entirety of the stipend will be issued at check-in on July 7, 2024. Stipends are taxable as income.

What if I need to leave early?

If a participant is obliged through special circumstances to depart before July 20, 2024, they will only be entitled to a pro-rata share of the stipend, and the balance must be returned.

Equal Opportunity Statement

Endowment programs do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or age. For further information, write to the Equal Opportunity Officer, National Endowment for the Humanities, 400 Seventh Street, SW, Washington, DC 20024.

TDD: 202-606-8282 (this is a special telephone device for the Deaf).

NEH Principles of Civility

NEH Institutes and Landmarks programs are intended to extend and deepen knowledge and understanding of the humanities by focusing on significant topics, texts, and issues; contribute to the intellectual vitality and professional development of participants; and foster a community of inquiry that provides models of excellence in scholarship and teaching.

NEH expects that project directors will take responsibility for encouraging an ethos of openness and respect, upholding the basic norms of civil discourse. Institute and Landmarks presentations and discussions should be:

  • firmly grounded in rigorous scholarship, and thoughtful analysis; 
  • conducted without partisan advocacy; 
  • respectful of divergent views; 
  • free of ad hominem commentary; and 
  • devoid of ethnic, religious, gender, disability, or racial bias. 

NEH welcomes comments, concerns, or suggestions on these principles at

Participant Expectations

Applicants who accept an offer to participate are expected to remain during the entire period of the program and to participate in its work on a full-time basis. During the institute, participants may not undertake teaching assignments or professional activities unrelated to their participation in the program. Participants will be asked to submit an evaluation at the end of the institute.

Click here to read all of the participant expectations set by the NEH.

Offered with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities

Pacific Crossings: Asian American and Pacific Islander Histories, 1870 to the Present has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Summer Institutes for K–12 Educators. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this webpage and program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The National Endowment for the Humanities and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History together: Democracy demands wisdom.