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Social justice advocate Stewart Kwoh named interim dean of College of Ethnic Studies

August 6, 2020

By Jillian Beck | Cal State LA News Service

Stewart Kwoh, a nationally recognized leader in race relations, has been named interim dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at Cal State LA.

Kwoh’s appointment was announced on August 5 by Cal State LA Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs José Luis Alvarado.

“Stewart has a long and distinguished career as a champion for social justice and advocate for achieving change by building community coalitions,” Alvarado said. “We are proud to welcome him to Cal State LA.”

Kwoh will start his new role on Aug. 10. He will direct the college while the university continues the nationwide search for a permanent dean. Kwoh will not apply for the permanent position.

“Cal State LA is a great university and I look forward to helping the college as we begin the new academic year,” said Kwoh, whose son is a Cal State LA alumnus.

Kwoh founded Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles (Advancing Justice - LA), one of the nation’s largest Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander legal and civil rights organizations. He served as the organization’s president and executive director and is now a member of its board of directors.

The College of Ethnic Studies at Cal State LA is the second such college to be established at a university in 50 years. The college houses the departments of Asian and Asian American Studies, Chicana(o) and Latina(o) Studies, and Pan-African Studies.

Kwoh founded Advancing Justice - LA’s Leadership Development in Interethnic Relations program, which has trained more than 1,000 community leaders in collaboration with African American, Latino, Asian Pacific Islander and LGBTQ communities. His community coalition efforts have also focused on improving higher education opportunities. In 2015, Advancing Justice - LA launched College for All, a multiracial, cross-sector coalition that has championed reinvestment in public higher education to promote greater access, affordability and equity.

Raised in Los Angeles, Kwoh earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles and a Juris Doctor from the UCLA School of Law. He serves as an adjunct faculty member at UCLA and has taught in the university’s school of law and Asian American Studies Department.

Kwoh has been honored with numerous awards in recognition of his public service, including a prestigious MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, a Liberty Hill Foundation Changemaker Award and a Civic Medal of Honor from the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. He was named Lawyer of the Year by California Lawyer magazine and received an Alumni of the Year for Public and Community Service Award from the UCLA School of Law.

In 2018, Cal State LA and the California State University Board of Trustees conferred an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws to Kwoh.

Delivering an inspiring address, Kwoh recounted how Advancing Justice - LA successfully challenged racially discriminatory employment practices and unfair immigration laws. The organization has also advocated for stronger protections for low-wage workers, immigrants and victims of hate crimes.

Kwoh urged the graduating students to go into the world and fight for social justice, fulfilling Cal State LA’s mission of engagement and service for the public good. He quoted Martin Luther King Jr.: “Every person must decide whether he or she will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

“So I ask you today, join our causes, keep hope alive, join us to lift up the spirit of immigrants,” he added. “And help us fight for justice for all.”     

Photo: Stewart Kwoh delivering an inspiring keynote address at Cal State LA Commencement 2018. (Credit: Anibal Ortiz/Cal State LA)

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