Columbia University Archives: Asian & Asian American Experience

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Related Collections

Barnard College
The Barnard Archives and Special Collections serves as the final repository for the historical records of Barnard College, from its founding in 1889 to the present day. For more information, please contact

Health Sciences Library
The Archives and Special Collections at the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library of Columbia University can help you find information about the schools of the Medical Center: College of Physicians & Surgeons, School of Nursing, College of Dental Medicine (formerly the School of Dental & Oral Surgery), Mailman School of Public Health, and the College of Pharmaceutical Sciences. For more information, please contact

Asian & Asian American Experience at Columbia

How to find information about Asian and Asian American students, faculty and staff at Columbia


Columbia has welcomed Asian students to its campus at least since the 1870s.  In our earliest student records such as matriculation ledgers and grade books, students are listed by name, hometown and state or country. Some entries may include the student’s secondary school or a parent’s (mostly father’s) name. But early Columbia student records did not record race or ethnicity. When asked about early Asian and/or Asian-American Columbia students and graduates, we are often at a loss. Because our information is incomplete, you may often see Asian and/or Asian-American alumni referred to as the “first known” since we don’t always know who may have come earlier. Below are some of the sources you can consult to discover Columbia’s Asian and Asian-American former students.

Please note that the physical collections listed here are non-circulating materials available only at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) reading room.  In order to use the University Archives collections at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML), visitors are required to register their own Special Collections Research Account before their visit and to validate the account in person with government-issued photo identification or Columbia ID card. Once you have created your Special Collections Research Account, you will be able to request the boxes directly from the finding aid or from the CLIO online library catalog record. For more information on how to access our collections, check out our Research & Access website.

Student Life 

Below is a list of resources to find information about the various Asian and/or Asian-American student groups, organizations and publications.

Student Groups and Organizations
  • Historical Subject Files feature materials collected by Columbiana and University Archives staff members over the years. The files contain an assortment of information on numerous topics related to Columbia University history and are a very good reference source and starting point for research on many areas of Columbia's past. In this collection you can find the following relevant folders about Asian and Asian-American student groups and organizations:
    • Asian Americans Working for Education (AAWE), 1990s
    • Asian Students, 1950s-2000s
    • Asian Student Union, 1970s-1990s
    • Chinese Culture, 1970s-1990s
    • Chinese Students, 1870s-1990s
    • Foreign Student Center, 1940s-1970s
    • Indian Students, 1950s-1970s
    • Indo-Iranian Club, 1900s
    • Intercultural Resource Center (IRC), 1980s-2000s
    • International Students, 1940s-2000s
    • Iranian Students, 1950s-1970s
    • Japanese Club, 1900s
    • Japanese Students, 1910s-1920s
    • Korean Students Association (KSA), 1990s-2000s
    • Slavic Club, 1920s
    • Turath (Columbia's North African and Middle Eastern Club), 1990s-2000s
  • Student Group Websites, Archived and Active
    The following are the major Asian student groups currently operating, as self-identified on the Cultural and Identity Based Student Organizations webpage. Where archived versions of these sites exist, links have been provided to the University Archives Archive-It captures back to 2010 via the link in the title. Current website addresses are listed as well the links to Facebook pages - sometimes the only online presence for these clubs.

    For versions of student group websites prior to 2010, we recommend using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine to search for older captures of and then navigating the archived Columbia University website to the appropriate student group page.
    • Columbia University Asian American Alliance, Asian American Alliance (2010-2020)
      The Asian American Alliance (AAA) is a student organization that strives to promote understanding, foster dialogue and create a sense of awareness within the Asian Pacific American community at Columbia University. It seeks to educate and address key issues and topics that affect the APIA community at Columbia and beyond.

    • Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
      CU APAHM (Asian Pacific American Heritage Month) commits itself to organizing a wide range of programs for the month of April, Columbia's Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, in order to bring broader awareness of the Asian American/ APIA community and its rich history to campus. Every year, APAHMs events all take place during April, which is APA Heritage Month here at Columbia. During that month, APAHM celebrates the culture, investigates the issues, and showcases the talents of Asian Pacific Islander Americans within and beyond our community.

    • Columbia University Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CUCSSA) (2011-2018) CUCSSA, Columbia University Chinese Students and Scholars Association (2019-2020)
      Founded in 1996, Columbia University Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CUCSSA), the largest Chinese students and scholars NGO in the United State is one of the most influential and well-known Chinese organizations. The members in CUCSSA include Chinese Columbia students and scholars, Chinese Columbia alumni and overseas Chinese who voluntarily joined the Association, which are about twenty thousand people in total. The four missions of CUCSSA are doing the services for the Chinese Columbia students, scholars and Chinese communities, uniting the alumni, overseas Chinese and Chinese students, promoting the Chinese culture, and increasing the cultural exchanges and mutual understanding between China and America.

    • Chinese Student Club
      The Chinese Students Club (CSC) of Columbia University is a non-profit student-run organization that promotes social, cultural and political activities both on and off campus. We host various events and activities throughout the school year intended to promote awareness of Chinese culture at Columbia. All of our events are open to everyone; they are Chinese in theme, but not limited to Chinese in attendance.

    • Columbia Japan Society
      Columbia Japan Society is an undergraduate organization of Columbia University, run by and composed entirely of students. We are dually recognized by the University under the Activities Board of Columbia and the Student Governing Association. Our purpose is to introduce and spread aspects of Japanese culture to the Columbia community, bridging the gap between East and West.

    • Columbia Korean Students Association
      Established in 1989, the Columbia University Korean Students Association (CU KSA) is the representative Korean organization of Columbia University. KSA's primary mission is to promote cultural and social events both on and off campus to celebrate Korea's rich heritage. Through events, programs, and other club functions, we constantly strive to achieve a unified and inclusive community on campus. The diverse range of events that KSA sponsors offers various ways of involving all those who are interested in Korean and Korean-American culture. Our organization also extends its celebration of Korean culture to all corners of the Columbia community as well as New York City by participating in various inter-group activities and off-campus projects. For these efforts, KSA has been awarded the coveted King's Crown Alma Mater Award for "best embodying the community-building ethnic and the spirit of Columbia." We invite you to join us in our celebration!

    • Queer and Asian (Q&A)
      Q&A is a student group dedicated to creating a space for queer, genderqueer, and trans Asian students, domestic and international.

    • The Sapna Project 
      Active since 2015, the Sapna Project is an experimental space at Columbia for the exploration of South Asian identity. We have a unique structure of rotating leadership, which allows everyone to lead for a period (or chapter) of time. In past chapters, we have discussed personal identity, read books by South Asian academics, learned phrases from different South Asian languages, and visited South Asian artists’ exhibits around New York City.

    • Taiwainese American Students Association 
      The Columbia Taiwanese American Students Association believes: College is a gateway between childhood and adulthood that shapes who we are. TASA provides a home where people can foster their interest in the Taiwanese American community, create life-long friendships, and find inspiration from one another. We believe that when we unite people to promote the growth and presence of Taiwanese culture, they will be equipped with the support they need to follow their dreams.

    • The Thai Club 
      The purpose of Thai Club is to provide information about Thai culture and heritage, promote and foster an awareness and appreciation of Thai culture, and provide a network support for Thai students.

    • Vietnamese Students Association
      The Vietnamese Students Club (VSA) of Columbia University is a student-run organization dedicated to promoting the rich Vietnamese heritage through social and cultural events both on and off-campus.

  • Student organization records 
    Central Files, or the Office of the President records, is a great source to investigate the changing nature of student activities and student relations with the administration, and how student organizations reflect upon the University. Between 1900 and the 1940s in particular, Columbia sought ways to centralize the administration of nonacademic services. Look for files of Frederick Goetz (who served as comptroller to student organizations); King’s Crown (the alumni body which oversaw the budgets of certain student organizations); the Committee on Student Organizations (which wrote regulations governing the selection of speakers by student organization); and the Registrar (all student organizations needed to complete a form with the purpose and membership of the organization, forms from 1940-1962 are found in boxes 568-570 of this collection). 

Student Publications
  • Historical Subject Files feature publications collected by Columbiana and University Archives staff members, including the following relevant folders:
    • Asian Journal, 2000s
    • Japanese American University Quarterly, 2000s
    • Sangam, the magazine of Club Zamana, 1993
    • Spectrum: The Korean-American Journal of Columbia University, 2000s
    • Visa: A Publication of the Foreign Students, 1960s
  • Columbiana Library: You can request these titles by using the call numbers listed below
    • New Horizons: In the 1940s the Chinese students' club published this monthly newsletter-like publication. The UA has issues from July 1944 to October 1945 (call# CP2 C44).
    • Bulletin of the Chinese Students' Club of Columbia University and Barnard College: Another publications issued by the Chinese students' club in the 1970s. The UA only has one issue (September 1977), but it is full of artwork, articles and poems. (call# CP2 C442)
    • Asian Journal: published by the Students of Columbia University. The UA has issues from 1978 (call# CP1 As5) and from the 2000s in Historical Subject Files.

Archival collections are non-circulating and can only be viewed in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library's reading room (RBML). In order to use the collections at the RBML, you will be required to register your own Special Collections Research Account before your visit and to validate the account in person with government-issued photo identification or Columbia ID card. Once you have created your Special Collections Research Account, you will be able to request materials directly from the finding aid: click the check box located on the right for the box(es) you need, and then scroll back to the top of the container list document and click “Submit Request” in the red-rimmed box at top. This should lead you directly to your Special Collections Research Account to complete the request form.

For additional resources or other topics you would like to be addressed here, please contact

Academics and Administration

The following resources will provide interested individuals with information about the study of Asian languages, cultures and history over the years at the University.

Please note that the physical collections listed here are non-circulating materials available only at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) reading room.  In order to use the University Archives collections at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML), visitors are required to register their own Special Collections Research Account before their visit and to validate the account in person with government-issued photo identification or Columbia ID card. Once you have created your Special Collections Research Account, you will be able to request the boxes directly from the finding aid or from the CLIO online library catalog record. For more information on how to access our collections, check out our Research & Access website.

  • Historical Subject Files
    This collection consists of clippings, press releases, programs, and other printed matter compiled over the years by curators of the Columbiana Collection and staff of the University Archives. The files contain an assortment of information on numerous topics related to Columbia University history and are a very good reference source and starting point for research on many areas of Columbia's past. You can find the following folders related to Asian studies and the East Asian Library at Columbia:

    • Asian American Studies and Asian Studies, 1960s-1990s
    • Dean Lung Professorship
    • Chinese and Japanese Studies, Department of, 1900s-1980s, undated
    • Chinese Language Program, High School, 1960s 
    • Committee on Race, Religion and Ethnicity (CORRE), 1940s-1990s
    • East Asia at Columbia (includes info on Starr Library, Department of East Asian Studies, and Weatherhead Institute), 2000s 
    • East Asian Institute, 1940s-2000s 
    • East Asian Languages and Cultures, Department of, 1980s-2000s 
    • East Asian Studies, 1960s-2000s, undated
    • Ethnic Diversity Awareness Program (EDAP), 1990s
    • Ethnic Studies, 1970s-2000s
    • Japanese American University Quarterly, 1950s and 2000s
    • Center for Korean Research, 1980s undated 
    • Korean Studies and Cultural Center, 1930s-1990s 
    • Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures, Department of, 1970s-2000s 
    • Center for Race and Ethnicity, 1990
    • South Asian Studies, NDEA Center for, 1980s 
    • Southern Asian Institute, 1960s-1970s 
    • East Asian Library, 1990s-2000s
    • C. V. Starr, 1930s-1990s
    • Japanese Collection at Columbia University 1926-1983, by Miwa Kai (3 folders), 2011 (Incomplete manuscript written by Miwa Kai, former Head of the Japanese Collection at Columbia University)
  • Central Files
    While these are officially the Office of the President records, that description does not fully capture the breadth and depth of these records. President Nicholas Murray Butler and his surrogates were closely involved in all University matters. These records are closed for 25 years after the date of their creation.
    In the Horace W. Carpentier files (Box 320, folders 4-6) there is correspondence concerning the establishment of both the Department of Chinese Languages and Literatures as well as the Dean Lung Professorship.  We previously scanned the Dean Lung Professorship documents from these files. 

  • Office of the Provost Records
    As the chief academic officer, the Provost is in charge of the academic program, faculty hiring, advancement and retention, and even student recruitment and enrollment.  The Office of the Provost also includes the Office of Institutional Research and Planning which publishes statistical abstract covering the yearly roundup of the University’s facts and figures.

  • A History of the Faculty of Philosophy, Chapter on “The Department of Chinese and Japanese” by L. Carrington Goodrich. (CU Press, 1954)

  • Departmental History from the Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures website.

    Course Bulletins 
    The yearly bulletins or bulletins of information are the course catalogues for each school and/or division. These volumes include department course offerings, with full descriptions of the courses and the faculty assigned to teach those courses as well as degree requirements, prizes and honors, etc.  You can find our holdings, organized by school or faculty, in the Columbia University Bulletins finding aid. There are also many volumes available online.
  • Annual Reports
    The Annual Reports of the President to the Trustees offer a yearly "state of the University" from 1865 to 1948. The tradition of a printed "Annual report of the President of Columbia College made to the Board of Trustees" started with University President Frederick A.P. Barnard. The reports include current events, facts and figures of students enrolled and degrees conferred, and as well as trends in each school. In addition to the President's remarks, the later reports include the Treasurer's financial reports and also each Dean reports to the President on the previous academic year at their school or division (Columbia College, Law, Business, Journalism, Barnard, Teachers College, etc.) as well as reports from the Librarian, the Registrar, the Secretary and other senior administrators. You can find access to the paper copies and links to the online reports from 1865-1948 in the President's Annual Reports finding aid.

  • Masters Essays and Doctoral Dissertations
    To find Asian authors and/or topics in older Masters Essays and Dissertations one can consult a set of publications printed by the University listing authors alphabetically and arranging essays by department for a particular year. In the Research Guide linked to above, look to the “Online Essays and Theses Links” tab for digitized versions of these publications as well as other resources for finding these academic publications. One can also consult Columbia University masters' essays and doctoral dissertations on Asia, 1875-1956. (call# COA F57a)

  • News and Alumni Magazine Articles
    To find news coverage of life on campus, you can search the archives of the student newspaper, the Spectator, and the University’s paper, the Record. Both publications have been scanned and are easily searchable. In addition to the newspapers, the University’s alumni magazines include class notes but also profiles on faculty members and former students. The Columbia Alumni News (1910-1948) and Columbia College Today (1954 to 2021) are both available online.  For example, the Spring 1969 issue of Columbia College Today features articles about what was then called the "Oriental Studies" program at Columbia.

  • Articles on academic topics found in issues of Columbia University Quarterly

  • Articles on academic topics found in issues of Columbia College Today
  • Columbia Library Columns
    Columbia Library Columns was published from 1951 to 1996. Over the years contributors included faculty, University administrators, writers, historians and collectors, as well as Columbia librarians. Articles focused on individual collections, special acquisitions, literary topics and issues relating to the growth of Columbia's libraries and special collections generally. To look for specific articles about the East Asian Library and related collections, please consult the table of contents and/or the ten and twenty year indices for subject areas presented in this publication. Paper copies are available at the University Archives.
  • Schools & Departments research guide
    This guide helps you find information about Columbia schools and departments including catalogues, minutes, and histories. You can find what department records are available at the RBML and also records submitted for University-wide self-studies and/or planning reports.

  • Faculty Search research guide
    This guide helps you identify resources to learn more about former faculty members at Columbia University. It also includes links to faculty papers at the RBML such as the ones listed below.

Additional Resources

The list below captures information about some “firsts” and other notable Asian and Asian-American Columbians. In addition to the links provided in the text, you can often find additional information about individuals in the Historical Biographical Files.

  • Every year in May, Columbia News marks Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month by highlighting Asian Columbians, both past and present. For example, see "12 Groundbreaking Asian Columbians You Should Know" from May 2021.
  • On the blog of the Archives and Special Collections at the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library of Columbia University, Primary Sources, a guest blogger Jingwen Zhang VP&S 2023 wrote about the medical school’s first female Asian American graduate, Megumi Yamaguchi Shinoda, P&S 1933. Learn more about this pioneering woman who had a long, fruitful career in Los Angeles’ Japanese-American community.
  • Notable Columbians - At the University Archives, these individuals are the Columbians most frequently asked about by researchers. The University Archives may have a lot or very few sources about these individuals. We've made available what we have found about these people in our collections, both online and available only in person. See Notable Columbians to learn more about Bhimrao Ambedkar, Wellington Koo, and C.S. Wu.
  • Asian Americans research guide - The purpose of this guide was to identify resources that can provide readers and researchers with a deeper sense of the lives and histories of  Americans of Asian descent using materials available in the Columbia University Libraries.  Librarians from across the different collections identified resources from databases to books, periodicals and archival collections.
  • From a 1906 article in the Columbia University Quarterly, we learn that Chinese students at Columbia were exceed in number only by the Chinese students of the University of California. The Chinese Students' Alliance in the United States of America published student directories, which include all Chinese students in America, including Columbia, a student handbook, and a journal, The Dragon Student. You can read more about Chinese students in America in 1905 here.


About the images

From the cover of Sangam, the magazine of Club Zamana, 1994 April, drawing by Lakshmi Parekh; from the 1948 Columbia University Chinese Students Club yearbook (Scan 2293), and from the cover to the 1978 Asian Journal