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Wednesday August 17th

Meet Krupal Amin, associate director of UNC's Asian American Center

UNC Asian American Center Associate Director Krupal Amin poses for a portrait outside the AAC on Oct. 27.
Buy Photos UNC Asian American Center Associate Director Krupal Amin poses for a portrait outside the AAC on Oct. 27.

UNC alumna Krupal Amin is back at the University after more than a decade — now as the associate director for the Asian American Center.

Amin began the position in July. 

“The ability to sort of help build a center that is very close to home, for me at least, is very important for me on campus,” Amin said. “I was thrilled to be able to transfer over at the right time in the right place.” 

Amin received her undergraduate degree in English and comparative literature from UNC-CH and went on to receive her master's degree in English literature from UNC-Charlotte. While she was at UNC-CH, Amin co-founded Tar Heel Raas, one of the University's South Asian dance teams.

Amin then completed her doctorate in English literature at Ohio State University. Before returning to UNC-CH, she taught American studies, critical race theory and women and gender studies at the ​​North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.

“It's really awesome to be able to come back after this long and kind of look around and say, 'Oh, wow, there's a space on campus that is dedicated to doing this kind of work,'" Amin said.

The AAC was founded in 2020. The center operates under a mission to "cultivate a critical understanding of Asian American peoples, cultures, and histories," according to its website. 

Heidi Kim, director of the AAC, said Amin's programming work includes planning academic talks, community workshops, community conversations and partnership programs around the University.

Kim said she felt lucky to have found someone who graduated from UNC-CH, has a degree in Asian American studies and helped found an Asian American-interest student organization.

“She's been really great to work with, and there's no doubt that, especially this year as we opened the physical space and started doing in-person programming, it would have been impossible to sustain on my own," Kim said. "It was really just like finding a gem.”

Susin Seow, deputy director of principal gifts at UNC-CH, has helped facilitate support for the AAC. Seow said she is excited to welcome Amin to the community.

“She really understands the context," Seow said. "You know, she really gets, I think, what we're trying to do with the center."

In her research, Amin said she focuses on 20th and 21st century U.S. multi-ethnic literature, as well as coming-of-age stories, such as the bildungsroman genre.

She is currently working on an article about Bharati Mukherjee’s "Jasmine," a book about a protagonist who comes to the United States at a young age, learns to navigate the country post-Cold War and who she wants to be as an Asian American. Amin said she identifies with the main character. 

"So, she kind of comes to America by herself," Amin said. "... I was born in India, and then my parents kind of came over when I was young."

As someone with an extensive background in English literature, Amin said her research is relevant to the work she does in terms of Asian American programming for the center.

"It helps to know what cutting-edge research is going on to understand where conversations are about Asian American experiences," Amin said.

One of the long-term goals Amin wants to achieve is for the Center to underscore that the South is more than just a Black-white binary.

"So what does it mean for us to have a center for Asian Americans in a geographical region that has been grounded in a white and Black binary for a very long time?" she said. "What does it mean to have a racialized experience that doesn't fall neatly into either of those categories?"

Amin's literary background also frames the way she sees institutional progress with respect to diversity. 

“I think one of the things about my training that I appreciated the most is when you read something, you really have to slow down and not try to jump to conclusions, not try to find the right solution within five minutes,” Amin said. “We need to slow down if we are working towards diversity. You can't fix things by kind of putting a Band-Aid solution on something.”

Amin said she hopes to see students and faculty visiting the AAC. She said the conversation about Asian Americans is long-term, and something that one must commit to in order to understand.

“It's the Asian American Center, but we welcome everybody," Amin said. "I think this is part of our mission is to kind of say we're offering information, we're offering conversations, we're offering the ability to understand each other. It's to say it's centered around the idea of the Asian American experience, but everybody can always know more about it, even Asian Americans."

@KeerthanaGotur

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