Director and Professor
UCLA Asian American Studies Center

DON T. NAKANISHI is the Director and a Professor of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center. A political scientist by training (BA, Yale, 1971; PhD, Harvard, 1978, both in political science) he is the author of over 80 books, articles, and reports on the political participation of Asian Pacific Americans and other ethnic and racial groups in American politics; educational policy research; and the international political dimensions of minority experiences.

Professor Nakanishi has received numerous awards for his scholarly achievements and public service, and is a highly sought out speaker. He has been a member of the board of directors for numerous national and local organizations, including the Poverty and Race Research Action Council, Board of Governors of the Association of Yale Alumni, Harvard University Graduate Alumni Council, Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance, Japanese American National Museum, and Altamed Health Care Services of East Los Angeles.

President Bill Clinton appointed Professor Nakanishi to the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund Board of Directors, which administered the public education and research program that was established under the 1988 Civil Liberties Act that provided a national apology and reparations for Japanese Americans who were incarcerated in concentration camps during World War II.

A former national president of the Association of Asian American Studies, he also co-founded and served as publisher of Amerasia Journal, the top scholarly journal in the field of Asian American Studies.  Recently, A. Magazine identified him as one of the "100 Most Influential Asian Americans in the United States during the Decade of the 1990s," and the Smithsonian Institution appointed him to a 25-member national Blue Ribbon Commission to plan for the future of the Smithsonian during the 21st century.

The UCLA Asian American Studies Center, founded in 1969, is the largest, most comprehensive, and renowned research, teaching, publications, library and archival collecting, and public educational institute focusing on the Asian Pacific American population in the nation. It has over 40 tenure track faculty specialists in Asian American Studies; offers over 70 undergraduate and graduate courses which annually attract 3,000 students; publishes Amerasia Journal  and other books and publications; and has the largest and most significant library and archival collections in the field. It also maintains active partnerships with community based organizations, civil rights groups, museums, libraries, and elected officials throughout California, across the nation, and in other parts of the world.

For the past four years, Professor Nakanishi and the UCLA Asian American Studies Center have worked jointly with the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies in organizing an annual Leadership Academy for Asian Pacific politician local elected officials, who are interested in seeking higher positions.

Professor Nakanishi was born and raised in East Los Angeles, California, a predominantly Mexican American community. He attended Theodore Roosevelt High School, where he was Student Body President. He also served as Boy Mayor of the City of Los Angeles during Boys' Week activities during his senior year in high school. He attended Yale University (where he graduated cum laude with highest honors in Political Science) and Harvard University on full scholarships and fellowships. He is married to Dr. Marsha Hirano-Nakanishi, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Analytical Studies for the California State University system. They have a son, Thomas, who is a student at Yale University.


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