The College of New Jersey Logo

Apply     Visit     Give     |     Alumni     Parents     Offices     TCNJ Today     Three Bar Menu

Communication studies professor receives inaugural award to capture and share AAPI voices and stories

Yifeng Hu
Yifeng Hu, communication studies. Photo: Peter Murphy


Yifeng Hu, associate professor of communication studies, is the inaugural recipient of the ASIANetwork-Mellon Foundation Award for AAPI Voices and Stories: Community-based Digital Storytelling.

The award provides $500,000 in funding over three years and will support oral history and community conservation projects designed to capture and preserve the experiences of Asian American and Pacific Islander individuals and communities.

Hu will head to the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Arkansas — one of two inaugural sites for the first year of the three-year nationwide project — for seven weeks this summer for a collaborative Chinese heritage project. Working alongside community members, students, and faculty from the University of Central Arkansas, Hu will begin to document the stories of members of the Chinese population in the state and Mississippi Delta region. This group has had roots there for more than 150 years.

six people stand at a grocery store counter in this 1947 black and white photo
Ping Fong Grocery in Hughes, Arkansas, circa 1947. Photo: Ping Fong, Jr.

“One store there has existed for almost 80 years,” Hu says. “Many of the community members are very old, and it’s urgent to document their voices and stories.” 

The work will include conducting, recording, and transcribing interviews, as well as creating a digital repository of stories and other historical artifacts to preserve this community’s past. Once she completes her work on the project in Arkansas, Hu hopes to be able to lead a similar project in New Jersey communities with an overarching goal to advocate that Asians are not “perpetual foreigners.”

“They’ve been here as long as anyone else and have made contributions,” Hu says. “When we talk about Asian-American histories, it’s really American stories.”

Hu has been involved with AAPI advocacy at TCNJ and in the state of New Jersey for years. In spring 2022, she and eight students spearheaded TCNJ’s first Asian American Pacific Islander advocacy campaign, raising awareness about AAPI history and contributions, promoting representation and visibility, and combating hate and stereotypes through interactive activities on campus. Since then, she has continued and expanded this work, bringing award-winning author Dr. Erika Lee to speak and organizing performances of Illegal: A New Musical on campus. She also co-chairs the newly formed TCNJ Asian and Asian American Pacific Islander Coalition.

In December 2021, Hu testified during a press conference and rally at the New Jersey State House in Trenton, urging lawmakers to pass a bill that would include the stories of Asian American Pacific Islanders in K–12 education standards.

“Not only is it imperative to make the young generation more aware of AAPI struggles, but it is equally crucial to celebrate AAPI contributions in the U.S. society,” she says.

Emily W. Dodd ’03