Background: Within the canon of Asian American histories and histories of student activism, little attention is given to the Vietnamese students at the University of California at Irvine, who came together to advocate for the well-being of Vietnamese refugees after the end of the Vietnam War. This study examines this history and discusses the implications for understanding the unique histories that shape the lives of our increasingly diverse student populations.
Purpose: The objective of this study is to unearth and examine the experiences of Vietnamese students at the University of California at Irvine after the Vietnam War, between 1980 and 1990, and how their student organizations functioned to help them make sense of their personal losses as well as mobilize their efforts to highlight the plight of Vietnamese refugees.
Research Design: Primary and secondary sources were used to support this historical analysis.
Data Collection: Archival material came from the University of California at Irvine’s Southeast Asian Archive.
Conclusions: This study pushes back against popular historical narratives that either ignore or blur the distinct experiences, traditions, and political and economic statuses among the U.S. Asian population. We demonstrate how Vietnamese students were active in their pursuit to improve the social and political conditions for their community. Moreover, this history brings forward very critical issues of student organizing and civic engagement and immigration.