Kennesaw State faculty receive grant for K-12 Asian American studies research

KENNESAW, Ga. | Apr 5, 2023

Two Kennesaw State University faculty members have received a Spencer Foundation grant for a research project to incorporate Asian American history in Georgia school curriculum.

Theresa Alviar-Martin and Sohyun An
Theresa Alviar-Martin and Sohyun An

Bagwell College of Education faculty Theresa Alviar-Martin, an associate professor of curriculum and instruction and Sohyun An, a full professor of social studies education, say the $50,000 grant is the outcome of a grassroots effort from Asian American students, parents and teachers in the metro Atlanta community. An said the effort to develop Georgia curriculum that includes the diverse and complex stories of Asian American history was bolstered by both an increase in violence against Asian Americans across the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic and the March 2021 spa shootings in Acworth and Atlanta that claimed the lives of eight people, six of whom were Asian immigrant women.

“The shootings were right in our backyard, so it really became a moment of reckoning for students, parents, teachers and others in the Asian American community in Georgia,” An said. “And we concluded that education is the key to stopping hate against the Asian American women, elders, and students. If our students grow up learning that Asian American history is part of American history, they don’t see Asian Americans as foreigners, or dangerous threat to the nation.’”

The research combines An’s background in Asian American studies and social studies education, Alviar-Martin’s expertise in decolonial and global citizenship education and the pair’s plans to co-author a book on similar topics. The book aims to center and uplift diverse and complex stories of Asian American students, parents, and educators and their grassroot organizing for K-12 Asian American studies and ethnic studies education in Georgia’s public schools. 

“In education, when people teach about world history, it’s usually from a very Western lens. The stories are usually told from the colonizers’ point of view, so it’s often about conquest and wars,” said Alviar-Martin, who noted her own heritage from the Philippines, which was a colonial territory of Spain and later the U.S. “The curriculum doesn’t always critically consider how society is shaped by people who are affected by those conflicts historically and presently.”

Alviar-Martin and An say their primary research question is, “Who is advocating for K-12 Asian American studies in Georgia’s public schools, and what are their goals, successes, and challenges in advancing an accurate and inclusive history curriculum?”

Alviar-Martin said the recent rise in incidents of Asian hate were hurtful and disempowering for the Asian American community in Atlanta, but they have also been a catalyst for parents, students, teachers and scholars including faculty members at KSU to stand up to demand ethnic studies for all and educational justice.

“We want to connect the common themes in experience from people we have talked to within local Asian American communities to include in the larger collection of literature detailing the experience of Asian American families living in the U.S.,” Alviar-Martin said. “And we think it’s appropriate that this is happening in Atlanta, which is very much known as a cradle of civil rights.”

The Spencer Foundation has been funding research exclusively in the area of education since 1971.

–  Thomas Hartwell
Photos by Darnell Wilburn

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit