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UNC’s AAC Fellows program is the first Asian America-focused Fellows program in the nation, bringing together pre-eminent scholars, artists, and community organization leaders for collaboration, workshops, and campus visits that inspire engagement with Asian American studies across campus. Fellows are chosen to address the breadth and richness of Asian America as well as campus needs and interests.

2024-25 Fellows:



Becoming a Fellow

Fellows are currently selected partly by application and partly by invitation in order to ensure a professionally varied cohort. Applications are currently closed.



Past Fellows:

2020-21 (inaugural year)
The inaugural Fellows of 2020-21: Iyko Day, Nitasha Sharma, and Rajiv Mohabir.

Dr. Iyko Day joins us from the Department of English and Critical Social Thought at Mount Holyoke College. Author of Alien Capital: Asian Racialization and the Logic of Settler Colonial Capitalism (Duke University Press, 2016), Day’s research focuses on the visual culture and literature of Asian North America. (Dr. Day already spoke at a jointly hosted Asian American Center and Carolina Asia Center event in the “Anti-Blackness and Alliance” series: video available here with ONYEN login.)

Rajiv Mohabir, a faculty member in the BFA/MFA program in Writing, Literature, and Publishing at Emerson College, is an award-winning Indo-Carribean poet and translator of poetry. Mohabir’s first book of poetry The Taxidermist’s Cut (Four Way Books, 2016) exposes the wounds of coming of age as a queer brown youth. I Even Regret Night: Holi Songs of Demerara (Kaya Press, 2019), Mohabir’s translation of Lalbihari Sharma’s 1916 book of poems, the only known literary work by an indentured servant in the Anglophone Caribbean, captures the hardships of life as an island “coolie” worker.

Dr. Nitasha Tamar Sharma, of the Department of African American Studies and the Program in Asian American Studies at Northwestern University, brings to the AAC Fellows a focus on the relationships between racialized peoples, specifically intersections of Black, Native, and Asian America. In Hawai’i is my Haven: Race and Indigeneity in the Black Pacific (Duke University Press, forthcoming August 2021) Sharma explores essential questions regarding race, identity, art, and place.


Dr. Samah Choudhury (she/her) is an assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Ithaca College. She has an academic background in the Middle East, Islam, and the Muslim identity and her specialty lies in Islamic Studies, humor and comedy, race, and gender. She has a wide range of experience that centers particularly on how Islam and Muslims are articulated through the medium of stand-up comedy.

Dr. Theodore (Theo) Gonzalves (he/him) is a scholar of comparative cultural studies and currently serves as the curator of Asian Pacific American history at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. He also serves as the interim director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. Dr. Gonzalves focuses on the experiences of Asian American and Filipino American communities. His research specialties also include Asian Pacific American history, culture and the performing arts. 

Dr. Sean Metzger (he/him) is currently a professor at the School of Theatre, Film and Television and the Vice Chair of Undergraduate studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Prior to his arrival at UCLA, he was an assistant professor of English, theater studies, and Asian & Middle Eastern studies at Duke University. Broadly, Dr. Metzger works at the intersections of  Asian American, Caribbean, Chinese, film, performance and sexuality studies. His scholarly publications include numerous books centering on these areas, including his first book, Chinese Looks: Fashion, Performance, Race (2014)


Christina Lai

From Plantation, Florida, Christina Lai finds passion in all fields of music teaching and collaboration. Seeking to bring diverse repertoire to audiences in local communities, Christina has collaborated with her chamber ensembles to focus on supporting works written by female composers. Through collaborations with composers such as Pulitzer Prize winner Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Missy Mazzoli, and Liliya Ugay, Christina has brought their music to parts across the state of Florida. She has taught for Western Kentucky University, Florida State University, University of North Florida, Aspen Music Festival and School’s Passes and Lessons Scholarship Program, DC Strings Workshop, Good Sam Arts, and UNC’s Musical Empowerment. Christina is also a co-founder and Executive Director of Chamber Music Festanza, a unique chamber music intensive designed with fluidity between rehearsal and coachings and emphases on building comradery and artistry.

Ina Liu

Ina Liu is a self-taught artist specializing in graphic design and multimedia visual arts. Passionate about leveraging art for advocacy and equity, she has worked on key projects with various social justice organizations such as the National Association of Asian American Professionals and the National Virus Hepatitis Roundtable. She was the selected winner for the World Health Organization design competition and helped design public awareness campaigns for reducing COVID-19 transmission.

Dr. Aprilfaye Manalang

Aprilfaye Manalang is an Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Norfolk State University, a Historically Black College/University in Virginia. She trained in the Social Sciences (University of Chicago, MA) and the Humanities (Bowling Green State University, PhD) and ranked as a top 10 finalist for the National Hiett Prize in the Humanities, an “annual award aimed at identifying candidates who are in the early stages of careers devoted to the humanities and whose work shows extraordinary promise and has a significant public component related to contemporary culture.” A Georg-Bollenbeck (University of Siegen) and Virginia Humanities fellow, Manalang secured the internationally competitive Early Career Award from the John Templeton Foundation for her ongoing project “Minority Millennials and the Rise of ‘Religious Nones: A Comparative Analysis:’”

Most recently, the Religion, Race, and Democracy Project, University of Virginia, appointed her as a fellow for her current project, “Catholicism and Filipino Americans: Why and How it Matters in the Age of COVID and Anti-Asian Hate.” In 2019, Manalang won the Teaching Faculty Excellence Award, which “recognizes a member of the Teaching Faculty that has advanced the university’s mission through outstanding teaching, research, and community service.” Her research interests include: Immigration; Postcolonialism, Transnationalism; Diaspora; Sociology of Religion; Citizenship; Race/Ethnicity.​


Dr. Shinhee Han

Shinhee Han, PhD is a senior psychotherapist at the New School University Counseling Service and in private practice in New York City. She is an adjunct professor at the Center for Study of Ethnicity and Race, Columbia University, offering courses on Asian Americans, Race, and Psychoanalysis. She is the co-author of Racial Melancholia, Racial Dissociation: On the Social and Psychic Lives of Asian Americans, co-authored with David Eng, published 2019 by Duke University Press. She is also a founding member of the Asian Women Giving Circle in NYC, a philanthropic organization that funds Asian women artists creating social activism and change. Previously, she was a therapist at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Barnard College and Columbia University.

Dr. Janelle Wong

Janelle Wong is Professor of Government and Politics and American Studies and Director of the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Maryland. She received her PhD from the Department of Political Science at Yale University. Wong’s research is on race, immigration, and political mobilization broadly, with a focus on Asian American politics. She has worked on numerous survey projects on Asian American politics conducted in multiple Asian languages. As a Senior Researcher with AAPIData, she helps to lead the 2024 Asian American Voter Survey. As a scholar and teacher, Wong has worked closely with social service, labor, civil rights, and media organizations that serve the Asian American population. She is a co-author of six amicus briefs, including briefs submitted in support of race-conscious admissions in the SFFA v. Harvard/UNC case.