Center for Asia Pacific Studies 2020-2021 Undergraduate Merit Fellow and Asia Bridge Fellow
Majoring in International Studies and Asian Studies with a minor in Chinese Studies
Evan Matthew Chan entered Professor Wei Yang Menkus’ Chinese Literature in Translation classroom on the second floor of Kalmanovitz Hall early. It was Evan’s first semester at the University of San Francisco, and he treated school with an earnestness that only a few rare students express. He arrived in each class having not only closely read the works of Confucius, Lu Xun, Li Qingzhao and others, but having seriously considered the predicaments of different narrators. Whether the characters were female, LGBTQIA+, or simply in an unfortunate situation, Evan always had something meaningful to contribute that helped his classmates consider the humans behindand within the stories. This humane thoughtfulness is a cornerstone of Evan’s character as a student, scholar, and USF community member.
His drive to learn is partially driven by a desire to better understand his roots as a third-generation Chinese American. As the grandchild of immigrants from Hong Kong and the Four Districts region of Mainland China where Toisan is spoken, Evan feels that there is a lot to learn about his heritage.
My family has been here for a long, long time, which means that by the time my generation came along — and I came along — I felt extremely disconnected from my culture.
Because of his self-described minimal cultural competency and limited language skills, Evan decided he wanted to learn more. Fortunately, growing up in San Francisco where there is a strong and vibrant Chinese American Community, Evan had the chance to begin taking World Humanities and Mandarin language classes in high school, where he discovered that learning language and studying global cultures was his passion. Those formative experiences ultimately led him to USF, and informed the multiple programs that he is in today: International Studies, Asian Studies, and Chinese Studies.
Evan’s passion for learning language means that his Mandarin courses at USF have been his favorite of all his past coursework: so much so that he has also made his language learning journey a part of his plans for his remaining time at USF. Having completed all of USF’s Mandarin courses,, he is currently taking a virtual class at the Mandarin Training Center at National Taiwan Normal University (MTC at NTNU). He is also planning to study abroad for Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 at The Chinese Language Division at National Taiwan University (CLD at NTU) before continuing his language study in Summer 2022 at the prestigious International Chinese Language Program at National Taiwan University (ICLP at NTU), which is attended by diplomats, Ph.D students, and many other highly accomplished professionals.
In a full-circle moment, Evan recalls Professor Genevieve Leung’s visit to his Chinese 330 class, “Chinese/Old Gold Mountain” during which she shared about her research on Chinese identity in California immigrant communities. He felt seen by Professor Genevieve Leung’s profoundly impactful discussion of how “Chinese” can both be a signifier for Chinese communities, but also can obscure more minoritized communities like people of Toisan heritage, like himself. Directly following that class was the “Last Hoisan Poets” reading with Genny Lim, Nellie Wong, and Flo Oy Wong, who read heartfelt poems in their mother tongue and brought many attendees to tears.
That string of events really hit home for me… it kind of reminded me why I’m here at USF and why I’m studying what I’m studying. It was just so resonant to who I am as a person and who I am as a scholar as well.
As for his research, Evan is motivated to learn about political movements, marginalized identities, and the humanities in Asia and overseas Asian communities motivated by his own personal identity and heritage.
I’m extremely interested in questions about identity in Asia, because as a gay Chinese American I’m always cognizant of my intersecting identities and what that can mean transnationally and in different cultural spheres.
He is deeply curious about social movements in China, especially around LGBT+ identities and feminism, and has even used the cultural knowledge and language skills developed in his time at USF to analyze protest songs from the Hong Kong protests, and to examine how they dovetailed with popular culture and human rights-based political discourse. Evan feels especially fortunate to be working on his paper for the Asia Bridge Junior Fellowship on these topics:
Original academic research is not something that you necessarily get to do a lot as an undergrad, and this extracurricular program is really an amazing opportunity to participate in that.
Evan is the first and only person to pursue a college education within his family, and as a member of the USF Honors College, and both an Undergraduate Merit Fellow and Asia Bridge Junior Fellow with the Center for Asia Pacific Studies, he is certainly taking advantage of his experience to the fullest. Professors across the various USF departments are also keenly aware of his leadership and have recruited him as a Peer Advisor for the BA in International Studies program and an Ambassador to the Honors College. But Evan’s leadership and activist spirit goes far beyond the classroom. In light of the recent anti-Asian violence in Atlanta, he wrote a powerful op-ed that is featured in the San Francisco Examiner. We are proud to support him as an Undergraduate Merit Fellow and Asia Bridge Junior Fellow and know this is just the beginning of seeing his writing “in print.”