San Diego Mesa College Professor and Chair of the Department of Behavior Sciences Dr. Yoshito Kawahara received the Distinguished Asian/Pacific American Alumni Award from his alma mater, Indiana University. In March, the American Psychological Association (APA) announced that it would place a videotaped interview of Kawahara’s personal history in its archives.
Kawahara received the Distinguished Asian/Pacific American Alumni Award during a dinner held at the Indiana University’s campus Virgil T. DeVault Alumni Center on April 27. He earned a doctorate in physiological psychology from IU in 1978.
In December 2006, Kawahara’s personal history was recorded by APA historian Dr. Wade Pickren. In the interview, Kawahara reflected on his many years service to the Asian American and other ethnic communities and time spent with his family in a concentration camp in Heart Mountain, Wyoming.
Kawahara is a third-generation Japanese American who overcame time spent in a World War II internment camp to become a successful scholar and a leader of the Asian American Psychological Association (AAPA). His family was among the 120,000 people who were forcibly relocated to camps after the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941.
“We were housed in tar paper barracks where the burning hot summers and freezing winters of Wyoming could be felt,” reminisced Kawahara, “I spent almost three years behind barbed wire fences and guard towers with American soldiers pointing their guns into the camp.”
After the camps closed down in 1945, Kawahara’s family moved to the “destitute area” of Los Angeles, which was the only housing affordable to them after having suffered personal financial and property losses.
Kawahara studied as an undergraduate at San Francisco State University and graduate school at Indiana University. In 1975, he began teaching at San Diego Mesa College after spending time as a faculty member at City University of New York. He will retire from Mesa College in June 2007.
In the late 1970s, Kawahara became a member of the AAPA. This organization strives to identify the needs, improve the understanding and develop the strategies to best guide the Asian American Communities. Currently, he is also co-director of the Bridges to the Baccalaureate program at Mesa College, a National Institute of Health funded initiative to help underrepresented students strengthen their scientific and life skills backgrounds so they will be highly likely to succeed at a highly competitive university.
The Distinguished Asian/Pacific American Alumni Award recognizes outstanding achievements of alumni of Indiana University. Kawahara was selected as the recipient based of his many years of community service and research on culturally based values.