Urban Studies Dept. at Queens College to Have First Minority Woman Chair

Tarry Hum will serve as the chair of the urban studies department at Queens College. (Photo provided by Tarry Hum via World Journal)

Tarry Hum, a Chinese-American professor in the department of urban studies at Queens College, will become its chair this fall. Hum told the World Journal on March 24 that her appointment as the first minority female chair of the department shows the commitment and respect of Queens College to diversity. She also vows to get more Asian students interested in urban studies.

Hum said there aren’t many Asian students in the department of urban studies, and even fewer Chinese international students. She plans to work together with professor Madhulika Khandelwal, director of the Asian/American Center at the school, to attract more Asian Americans and Chinese international students into the urban studies field.

Hum said urban studies is an interdisciplinary field. It focuses on urbanization and the inequality it brings, and provides a solid knowledge base for students who would like to work as city planning specialists, social workers and nonprofit organization managers. “Urban studies can answer all the questions that people in your community face on a daily basis such as immigration, civil rights, community development, community planning, environmental problems and even questions related to small business and immigrant entrepreneurship,” said Hum.

As the first woman of color to head the department, Hum said her appointment is the result of Queens College’s commitment to diversity. As the chair, her job is to be the cheerleader for the students and the faculty. She said she’ll be following the principle of Queens College to cultivate services and social awareness-based academic studies in order to build a city of justice.

Hum said as a first-time academic administrator, she faces a lot of challenges. As a public institution, Queens College doesn’t have a big budget. Also, she has to learn how to wear two hats – scholar and administrator – at the same time. “I know how to do research and how to teach. But I have no experience in managing. I am currently writing a book about China’s overseas investments and the real estate financial market. I hope I can finish it soon,” said Hum.

As for President Trump’s proposed cuts in the budgets of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Hum said it will be a big blow to urban planning and will affect affordable housing, rent subsidies and senior-related services.

Hum’s parents emigrated to Montreal, Canada, from Canton, China, and moved to Sunset Park in New York in 1970. Hum said hers was the first Chinese family in Sunset Park, and the first book she read was named “Sunset Park.” Hum has been teaching at Queens College since 1997 when she got her Ph.D. degree in urban planning from the Luskin School of Public Affairs at the University of California in Los Angeles. Hum said her parents, like many other Chinese parents, expected her to make money. They didn’t like her career choice in academia. But she believes Asian-American scholars in social science are critically needed in the U.S. “Being an academic [one] can make ends meet, and, at the same time, contribute to the community,” said Hum.

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