Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education


International and Multicultural Education


International & Multicultural Education EdD

First Advisor

Shabnam Koirala-Azad

Second Advisor

Monisha Bajaj

Third Advisor

Uma Jayakumar


Asian Americans are underrepresented in both formal leadership positions and leadership research (Foldy & Ospina, 2009) and rarely are Asian Americans viewed as leaders, activists, or agents of social change. Leadership development programs, particularly those focused on social and racial justice, are largely absent from the curriculums and educational experiences of Asian Americans (Omatsu, 2006), and few leadership development programs focus specifically on the needs of Asian Americans (Chung, 2014; Liang, Lee, & Ting, 2002), particularly at the community college level.

This study addressed the need for critical leadership development for Asian American community college students, focusing specifically on leadership directed towards social justice. This study utilized a Participatory Action Research (PAR) design that was integrated into an 18-week ethnic studies course at Urban Community College (UCC). The 10 co-researchers in this study were students in a leadership development program at UCC—Asian American Leaders in Alliance (AALIA)—from January-May in 2015. Research data included student blog posts, reflection journals, analytical worksheets, and class presentations.

The research team studied critical Asian American leaders participating in alliance building on campus and as allies to Black Lives Matter movements. In their findings, researchers challenged deficit models that portray Asian Americans as unlikely and ineffective leaders and instead focused on the legacies and examples of Asian American leaders who actively challenge systems of racism and oppression. In the PAR processes, researchers also practiced and developed their own critical leadership and alliance-building praxes. Researchers articulated that the goals of critical Asian American leadership are not to produce leaders to take positions in oppressive institutions but instead to direct leadership towards their communities and towards transforming inequitable institutions. In synthesizing the research findings, this study proposes a new model of Critical Asian American Leadership Praxis.

The results of this study support the need for and efficacy of targeted leadership development curriculum for Asian American students, particularly at the community college level. This study also affirms the importance of ethnic studies pedagogies and curriculum for Asian American students in transforming both students’ academic and leadership experiences.