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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, June 13, 2024

Linell Yugawa to retire as Asian American Center's director

Linell Yugawa, director of the Asian American Center, will retire after more than 30 years of leadership, according to an email sent to students on April 4. During her time as director, Yugawa launched numerous initiatives and programs including the Center’s Peer Leader Program and was deeply involved with the Pan Asian Council (PAC).

Her leave will follow the departure of JuliánCancino, director of the Latino Center, and K. Martinez, director of the Women’s Center.

Yugawa helped found the center’s Peer Leader Program, which serves as a resource for current students and coordinates social and educational events that focus primarily on the Asian American experience, according to the website.

She told theDaily in an email that the program has been of great importance to participants and incoming students.

“I feel a great marker of our success is hearing from alumni who often reflect on how meaningful this kind of community participation in these programs has been for them,” Yugawa said. “Student leadership programs are an important part of student development in the college experience.”

She also emphasized the importance of students learning about ways that they can help the greater Boston communities, referencing the program Discover Boston.

“Small groups of students and faculty visited community organizations in Boston’s Chinatown to learn about urban community issues," Yugawa said. "I wanted students to come to college here and leave after four years knowing something about the neighborhoods in the city of Boston.”

Yugawa said she believes the Asian American Center is part of a strong legacy of cultural programming at universities like Tufts.

“I feel it’s important for this kind of legacy to be recognized, to continue and to grow with institutional and student support," Yugawa said.

Yugawa further noted that she hopes students recognize the limitations of the center and gain respect for her potential successor's individual work.

“It takes a long time to get comfortable in positions like this and I don’t want a new director to feel so overwhelmed, though that’s [to be] expected," she said.

Jianmin Qu, dean of the School of Engineering, told the Daily in an email that Yugawa has been an exceptional leader at the Asian American Center and has mentored generations of students. Apart from recognizing her impact with the Peer Leader Program, he particularly noted her ongoing support of PAC.

“Linell’s impact on our campus can also be felt through her support of the Pan Asian Council (PAC) as well as through her hosting and facilitation of countless workshops and other initiatives while working with student organizations both within and beyond the PAC,” Qu said.

Qu commended Yugawa’s successful efforts to relocate which resulted in the relocation of the Asian American House from Start House (17 Latin Way) to Hillsides Dorm earlier this academic year.

“This change has allowed Start House to be designated entirely for Asian American Center programming, a structural change that will have significant, ongoing impacts on our campus,” Qu said.

Qu also shared that the director positions for the Asian American Center, Latino Center and Women’s Center are now posted on Tufts’ Human Resources recruitment page and that the administration is looking forward to working with students, faculty and campus partners.

Mary Pat McMahon, dean of student affairs, emphasized Yugawa’s approach in leading the center and engaging with students.

“She has an educator's approach to thinking about social justice, identity development [and] activism,” McMahon said. “She has 35 years of engaging peer leaders, developing leadership systems and structures that address inequity on our campus and thinking about the experience of underrepresented students at a privileged white institution.”

McMahon praised Yugawa's focus on improving the university in both the short term and long term.

"I have found her to be someone who is uncompromising in ways to ask tough questions in a way that challenges the university to be better by our students and in a way that thinks about both the current moment and the longer arc of how we’re going to bend towards justice,” McMahon said.

McMahon also indicated that the administration is searching for someone to fill the vacant position and emphasized students’ advocacy for another director.

“I think students recognize the extent of which her legacy and that the long arc and tradition of the center are deeply interconnected and I think when that kind of momentous shifts happens there’s a response that involves ‘How do we sustain this and expand what has already happened,’” McMahon said. "We don’t want the greatness of the center to walk out the door with the person.”

Elizabeth Hom, who is involved with the center and will be a peer leader next year, said that the center is in need of more funding and staffing and emphasized the importance of student involvement in the search process for a new director. She expressed her fear of Yugawa's retirement and the future of the center.

"It has been a pretty scary time for the center in terms of finding a new director ... I think it just faced a lot of pushback in terms of funding and staffing for many, many years," Hom, a first-year, said. "So, especially with Linell [Yugawa] leaving, it's a scary time. There's not going to be a point person to advocate for many things until a new director is found."