Valverde's Vision: Asian American Studies Professor Charts a Unique Course

A swinging monkey grasping a star is the logo gracing Caroline Kieu Linh Valverde's Web site. This simple symbol reflects Valverde's approach to academia and to life outside the academy. Playful and intelligent, Valverde combines research, teaching, and technology in a unique and stylish mix. Her personal Web site ( an image consciousness that's decidedly postmodern, reveals her penchant for social activism and her quirky fashion sense, and blends a sense of humor with serious scholarship--scholarship befitting her role as Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies.

Valverde's work focuses on Vietnamese Americans, her native Viet Nam (she elects the less-Westernized spelling), and the interaction between two cultures forever linked by a war. Her current project--revising her doctoral dissertation for publication--hints at the role technology plays in this interaction. Titled Making Transnational Viet Nam-Vietnamese American Community: Viet Nam Linkages through Money, Music and Modems, the manuscript covers "cyber communities," that connect those who left Viet Nam with others who stayed. Valverde finds that the Internet provides a "safe space for Vietnamese and Viet Kieu (overseas Vietnamese) to discuss controversial topics," such as communism, dual citizenship, and financial investment.

In fact, professor Valverde has been instrumental in fostering one such cyber community by acting as cofounder of the Viet Nam Women's Forum. This non-profit organization began in 1998 as an email list (a common email address through which members can communicate) and has grown into a Web site ( that acts as an archive for academic and popular essays, a fledgling gift store, and a means for women to share experiences and resources, both professional and private.

Valverde and her cofounders intentiona lly designed the site to be spare--in form if not in substance--so that women with limited technology training might act as site moderators, in the process gaining highly valued job skills and Web experience. (It should be noted that the Viet Nam Women's Forum listserv is open to women of all backgrounds but, in the interest of maintaining a comfortable setting, is not open to men.)

From the Computer to the Classroom More than just a resource for women, the Forum Web site serves as a teaching tool for professor Valverde. In her Asian Diasporas course, for example, Valverde uses this site to display what social activism can accomplish via technology. When it comes to class research projects, Valverde puts her method where her modem is: she permits students the option of composing a Web site in lieu of a more traditional research paper. While the project still involves the requisite writing requirement, it also permits students to expand what they're learning and to share it with an audience greater than one: that is, a limitless readership rather than simply their instructor.

Other technological tools augment her teaching: Valverde sometimes holds virtual office hours at 3 a.m. the night before an exam; she shows videos covering Asian youth parodies of pop culture and underground ethnic comedy skits; and, like many other instructors, she makes use of PowerPoint to round out her lectures. She finds that this particular tool helps curb her tendency to speak at New York speed, slowing her lectures to a more amenable, note-taking pace.

Surprisingly, Valverde still considers herself an "aspiring geek." To that end, she frequently takes technology courses offered at UC Davis. Most recently, she attended the "Spring Further Into Technology" two-day workshop offered by the Teaching Resources Center (TRC). While there, Valverde learned how to help students with their course Internet proje cts.

When asked what advice she???d offer to other instructors interested in employing technology in their teaching, she replies decisively: "Take a TRC class and get Mediaworks support."