The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

Sort Interviews by Affiliation or Theme

Patti Sakurai Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

March 2, 2015


“Ethnic Studies at OSU from the Beginning”  March 2, 2015  Location: Valley Library, Oregon State University.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Sakurai recounts her family background, including her extended family's experiences with internment during World War II. She also discusses her activities and interests growing up, with a particular focus paid to the development of her identity as a Japanese American living in southern California.

Sakurai next reflects on her undergraduate experience as a Literature and Economics student at Claremont McKenna College before turning her attentions to her doctoral studies at SUNY-Stony Brook. In noting her years in New York, Sakurai speaks in particular of her attraction to literary works authored by people of color and her eventual gravitation toward the field of Ethnic Studies.

After outlining her participation in fellowships at three different universities, Sakurai shares her memories of arriving at Oregon State University in 1996. She discusses the background behind the creation of Ethnic Studies at OSU, the environment in what was then a department consisting of two faculty members, the eventual growth of the department, and her work in shaping components of its curriculum. She likewise speaks of her role in organizing a successful workshop on Japanese American internment, the progression of her scholarly work on Japanese American identity, her involvement with a variety of projects in film and community radio, and her current interests in the cultural impact of Korean drama and popular music.

As it nears its conclusion, the session shifts focus to the current state and forward movement of the Ethnic Studies department at Oregon State. The interview ends with Sakurai's thoughts on the environment faced by students of color on the OSU campus and the important role played at OSU by the university's cultural centers.