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Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

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A&GS Celebrates: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Public Law 102-450 officially designated May as Asian American Pacific Island (AAPI) History Month, though it took over a decade of work at the congressional level for this to happen. Jeanie Jew, a Capitol Hill staffer, approached Congressman Frank Horton with the idea in the mid-70s, and what began as the suggestion of a week of observance in 1977 became a full month in 1990, with an annual designation by Congress in 1992. 

“The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.” [the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month website]

For more information Asian American Pacific Islander History Month, see the following links: 

To celebrate Asian American Pacific Island History Month, OU and A&GS have assembled the below spotlights and resources: 

We hope you will join us in acknowledging and celebrating the contributions of AAPI people in A&GS and beyond.

Image: Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month OU College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences The University of Oklahoma

Notable Asian American and Pacific Islanders in Meteorology, Geography and Related Disciplines

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, United States of America. NGA is proud to celebrate LGBTQ+ Visibility in the STEM community. "There is this notion in STEM that your work is the only thing that should matter... But that's not true, people produce the work." - Dr. Ron Buckmire. Image background contains various mathematics symbols, graphs, and equations.
Dr. Yoshi Sasaki

Yoshi Sasaki became the second director of Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies in 1980.

Sasaki was instrumental in developing OU’s meteorology program and strengthening the tie with the institute’s federal partners and international organization.

Sasaki served as CIMMS director from 1980 until 1986. Strengthening partnerships with both the university and NSSL was Sasaki’s legacy. He assisted in creating an agreement between OU and Kyoto University in Japan, he promoted research and relations between the United States and Japan, and he worked on an international consortium of universities, government and private enterprise to alleviate the loss of life and property.

He was a George Lynn Cross Research professor of meteorology at OU. His dream was to see universities, private businesses and government unite to lessen the devastating effects of natural disasters.

Lynn Conway back at MIT in October 2008.
Dr. Anjuli Bamzai

Climate Dynamics Alumna Dr. Anjuli Bamzai ’97 was promoted to Division Director for the Division of Atmospheric Geospace Sciences (AGS) of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2019.

As the very first George Mason University Climate Dynamics graduate, Dr. Bamzai was a Climate Dynamics doctoral student before Climate Dynamics was a separate program, before AOES was a separate department, and before College of Science existed.  In those days, Climate Dynamics was a concentration of the Computational Sciences and Infomatics PhD in the School of Computational Sciences.  Since then, over 40 scientists have earned Climate Dynamics doctorates from GMU.

Dr. Bamzai has extensive leadership experience within NSF, including directing the Climate and Large Scale Dynamics program and the Arctic Natural Sciences program.  AGS is one of five divisions (along with Earth Sciences, Ocean Sciences, Polar Programs, and Integrative and Collaborative Education and Research) of the NSF Geosciences Directorate.  Geosciences, in turn, is one of the seven directorates comprising NSF.

Sally Ride as an LA kid in the mid-1950s.
Tetsuya Theodore “Ted” Fujita, photo by Roger Tully; courtesy of

Tetsuya Fujita, in full Tetsuya Theodore Fujita, also called Ted Fujita or T. Theodore Fujita, original name Fujita Tetsuya, (born October 23, 1920, Kitakyūshū City, Japan—died November 19, 1998, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.), Japanese-born American meteorologist who created the Fujita Scale, or F-Scale, a system of classifying tornado intensity based on damage to structures and vegetation. He also discovered macrobursts and microbursts, weather phenomena that are associated with severe thunderstorms and are hazards to aviation.

Fujita earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1943 from Meiji College of Technology, Tokyo, Japan, where he became an assistant professor in the physics department in 1944. Upon completion of a doctoral degree from Tokyo University in 1953, he moved to the United States and joined the meteorology department at the University of Chicago. After a trip to Japan in 1955–56 to obtain an immigrant visa, he returned to the University of Chicago. Fujita became a U.S. citizen in 1968 and took “Theodore” as a middle name. He remained at the University of Chicago, serving in a variety of positions, until his death.

Work with tornadoes

Early in his career, Fujita turned his attention to tornadoes, a subject of lifelong fascination. He made extensive use of aerial surveys of tornado tracks and took innumerable aerial photographs, displaying an uncanny ability to discern order and pattern in jumbles of debris and downed trees. His post-event analyses of tornadoes were holistic, bringing together not only traditional meteorological data on temperatures and winds but also photography of damaged structures, photogrammetric analyses of movies of tornadoes to estimate the magnitude of the swirling winds, analysis of bounce and drag marks on the surface, and observation of directions in which trees had been uprooted and debris and detritus thrown. The resulting reports with their detailed mappings told simple, clear stories about one of nature’s most powerful events. Fujita’s detailed maps of tornado tracks were hand-drawn, reportedly because he did not trust computers for such fine-scale work.

He introduced the concept of the tornado “family,” a sequence of tornadoes, each with a unique path, produced by a single thunderstorm over a few hours. Prior to this, long damage paths were commonly attributed to a single tornado that sometimes “skipped” along its path.

Fujita’s analysis of the Palm Sunday Outbreak of April 11–12, 1965, was the first systematic analysis of a regional outbreak. Based on this study and an airborne observation of a large dust devil, he put forth the concept of the “multiple vortex tornado,” that is, a system of smaller vortices circling around a common centre. These small embedded vortices—sometimes termed suction vortices—are often found in the most violent tornadoes and may contain the highest wind speeds known (greater than 500 km per hour, or 300 miles per hour).

His study of damage in the Palm Sunday Outbreak also led directly to his intensity scale for characterizing tornadoes. The F-Scale was used internationally to estimate tornado intensity based upon severity of damage to buildings and vegetation. It was later revised by a team of meteorologists as the Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF-Scale), which was adopted for use in the U.S. in 2007 and in Canada in 2013. (For the scale, see tornado.)

The capstone of Fujita’s work with tornadoes is considered by many to have been his work with the Super Outbreak of April 3–4, 1974, a national-scale outbreak of 148 tornadoes (4 of these tornadoes were later reclassified as downbursts by Fujita). His maps of complex damage patterns aided his identification of a previously undiscovered phenomena, the downburst and the microburst. These sudden, severe downdrafts can result in 250-km- (150-mile-) per-hour winds on or near the ground that often uproot trees in discernible starburst patterns. In the face of widespread skepticism among his colleagues, Fujita insisted that these damage patterns were the products of columns of air descending rapidly from a thunderstorm, striking the surface, and then flowing out in all directions. He received national attention in 1975 when he linked an airliner crash at New York’s Kennedy Airport to microbursts. Subsequent studies showed conclusively that sudden downdrafts from thunderstorms were indeed a previously unappreciated aviation hazard, a finding that led to installation of special Doppler radars at major commercial airports to improve safety. Much of Fujita’s later work was devoted to describing how these downdrafts interact with aircraft during takeoff and landing.

Other contributions to meteorology

Fujita also studied other forms of severe weather, such as thunderstorms and hurricanes. He pioneered novel techniques for analyzing small to midsize weather conditions, laying the foundation for the “mesoscale analyses” now carried out in weather stations all over the world. He introduced the basic concepts of thunderstorm architecture, including terms such as wall cloud and tail cloud that are in widespread use today.

Sally Ride as an LA kid in the mid-1950s.
Tetsuya Theodore “Ted” Fujita, photo by Roger Tully; courtesy of

Roger Wakimoto began as the Vice Chancellor for Research at UCLA in July 2017. He is an accomplished atmospheric scientist specializing in research on mesoscale meteorology, particularly severe convective storms and radar meteorology. In 2017, he returned to UCLA’s Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences faculty, having previously served as a member in 1983-2005 and as its chair in 1996-2000. After his initial tenure at UCLA, he served as the director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Earth Observing Laboratory from 2005-2010 and subsequently as director of NCAR from 2010-2013. Vice Chancellor Wakimoto was also assistant director of the National Science Foundation Directorate for Geosciences from 2013-2017; where he led a division that supported the atmospheric, geospace, polar, earth, and ocean sciences with a $1.3 billion annual budget, and president of the American Meteorological Society in 2017-2019.                                                                                                                                                              

Vice Chancellor Wakimoto is well published in his field and has served on many panels, committees, and boards for research organizations. He has published a number of journal articles throughout his career. He was an associate editor of the Monthly Weather Review and a co-editor of the American Meteorological Society Meteorological Monograph Radar and Atmospheric Sciences: A Collection of Essays in Honor of David Atlas.

Vice Chancellor Wakimoto received his B.S. with honors and great distinction in meteorology from San Jose State University and his Ph.D. in geophysical sciences from the University of Chicago. He previously held a professorship at both UCLA and the University of Colorado at Boulder. He has received many honors, including a scientific and technical achievement award from the Environmental Protection Agency for observations of air pollution as well as the Clarence Leroy Meisinger Award from the American Meteorological Society for his contributions to understanding of mesoscale phenomena.

Yi-Fu Tuan, courtesy of Wikipedia

Yi-Fu Tuan is a Chinese-American geographer. He is one of the key figures in human geography and arguably the most important originator of humanistic geography.

Born in 1930 in Tianjin, China to an upper-class family, he was educated in China, Australia, the Philippines and the United Kingdom. He attended University College London, but graduated from the University of Oxford with a B.A. and M.A. in 1951 and 1955 respectively. From there he went to California to continue his geographic education. He received his Ph.D. in 1957 from the University of California, Berkeley.

From New Mexico where he taught at the University of New Mexico from 1959 to 1965, Tuan then moved to Toronto between 1966 and 1968 teaching at University of Toronto. He became a full professor at the University of Minnesota in 1968. In the same year he received a Guggenheim Fellowship. It was while he was at Minnesota that became known for his work in humanistic geography, but his forays into this approach began earlier with an article on topophilia that appeared in the journal Landscape. In a 2004 "Dear Colleague" letter he described the difference between human geography and humanistic geography:

Human geography studies human relationships. Human geography's optimism lies in its belief that asymmetrical relationships and exploitation can be removed, or reversed. What human geography does not consider, and what humanistic geography does, is the role [relationships] play in nearly all human contacts and exchanges. If we examine them conscientiously, no one will feel comfortable throwing the first stone. As for deception, significantly, only Zoroastrianism among the great religions has the command, "Thou shalt not lie." After all, deception and lying are necessary to smoothing the ways of social life. From this, I conclude that humanistic geography is neglected because it is too hard. Nevertheless, it should attract the tough-minded and idealistic, for it rests ultimately on the belief that we humans can face the most unpleasant facts, and even do something about them, without despair.

After 14 years at the University of Minnesota, he moved to Madison, Wisconsin and continued his professional career at University of Wisconsin–Madison as the J.K. Wright and Vilas Professor of Geography (1985–1998). He was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1986, of the British Academy in 2001 and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2002. Tuan was awarded the Cullum Geographical Medal by the American Geographical Society in 1987 and the Vautrin Lud Prize in 2012.

Tuan is an emeritus professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He occasionally gives lectures, continues to write his "Dear Colleague" letters and to publish new books on geosophy. His most recent books are Human Goodness (2008) and Religion: From Place to Placelessness (2010). He resides in Madison, Wisconsin.

Key Ideas and Approaches


Tuan describes his approach as humanist, however his humanism does not entail replacing spirituality with rationalism or promoting human beings as wholly self-directed. Instead, he sees humanist geography as a way to reveal "how geographical activities and phenomena reveal the quality of human awareness" and to show "human experience in its ambiguity, ambivalence, and complexity". To do so requires empathy, and for this he seeks assistance from literature, the arts, history, biography, social science, philosophy, and theology. Tuan's approach is qualitative, but more narrative and descriptive than philosophical, in light of his concern that a philosophical theory can become "so highly structured that it seems to exist in its own right, to be almost 'solid,' and thus able to cast (paradoxically) a shadow over the phenomena it is intended to illuminate" whereas he prefers for theories to "hover supportively in the background."

Contradictions and paradoxes

Tuan is most interested in ambivalent human experiences that resonate with the opposing pulls of space and place, the intimate and the distant. His approach is suggested by titles such as Segmented Worlds and Self, Continuity and Discontinuity, Morality and Imagination, Cosmos and Hearth, Dominance and Affection, and above all, Space and Place. These existential dialectics propel people between a pole of experience characterized by rootedness, security and grounding, on the one hand, and a pole characterized by outreach, potentiality and expansiveness, on the other hand. These opposites interact: there is a certain distance in what is nearby and a certain nearness in what is far away. Therefore, ambivalence is the norm when it comes to the human experience of dwelling in the world with its existential pulls between space and place, mobility and stasis, the distant view and embodied engagement.


Tuan is fundamentally an optimist. Even Tuan's gloomiest book, Landscapes of Fear, concludes that things were worse in the past. For Tuan, historical changes have been for the better overall: "In the larger view, the human story is one of progressive sensory and mental awareness ... culture, through laborious and labyrinthine paths traversed over millennia, has greatly and variedly refined our senses and mind." Progress itself depends on particular ways of dealing with the tensions between space and place, cosmos and hearth, dominance and affection, morality and imagination. The promise of the future lies in recognizing the existential poles of nearness and remoteness and how they are reflected in each other.


Tuan has foregrounded the importance of language in the making of place. Throughout his works, texts such as poems, novels, letters, and myths are understood as integral elements in the creation of a sense of place. Human communications form the basis for the social processes of imagining, understanding, planning and conceiving places. Representations guide the human and material interactions creating, sustaining, and destroying places. Tuan's deep reflection on the role of representation in the creation of place forms an important foundation for the geography of media and communication.


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