To celebrate the the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May, we are featuring four scholars whose work has contributed to the advancement of research, policy, and/or practice on Asians, Asian Americans, or Pacific Islanders.
Dr. Stanley Sue is Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Palo Alto University and at the University of California, Davis. His research has been devoted to the study of the adjustment of, and delivery of mental health services to, culturally-diverse groups. On the Scopus h-index, which is one of the most influential ratings of scholarly impact and contributions, Dr. Sue ranked first in the multicultural counseling field (Ponterotto, Fingerhut, & McGuinness, 2012).
1. What drew you to work with Asian/Pacific Islander children and families?
My focus on Asian American and cultural issues came from my early family experience. In high school I became very interested in psychology and in the opportunity in psychology to help emotionally disturbed individuals. I told my parents that I wanted to become a clinical psychologist, not fully knowing what a clinical psychologist did. My father, who was born in China, said, “What is that?” He couldn’t believe that people would pay me to listen to their problems–indeed, he wondered if I could make a decent living. His reaction and that of my mother partly reflected some cultural differences. Even now, many Chinese and other Asians are unfamiliar with the profession of psychology, preferring their sons and daughters devote their careers in the fields of medicine, law, engineering, or physics. In any event, I persisted in pursuing a career in psychology. Then my second oldest brother decided to become a psychologist; my oldest brother became a psychologist and married a psychologist; and my youngest brother also became a psychologist. In any event, my mother and father were proud that we all received our doctorates, but they always wondered what we do as psychologists. From this experience, I became acutely aware of cultural influences and developed an interest in studying them.
2. What thoughts or advice do you have for junior scholars who are building upon your seminal work?
I think several things would be helpful to consider in research. First, use your personal experiences and knowledge of the literature to develop meaningful questions to explore. There are many interesting and important questions to address in Asian American mental health and adaptation, parenting, educational achievements, etc. Second, in formulating questions, try to draw out wider implications. While it is important to understand Asian Americans per se, it is also critical to address larger issues such as the cross-cultural equivalence of theories, concepts, methods, and measures. That is, use Asian American findings to comment on the applicability and validity of existing theories and practices in psychology. This will also increase the likelihood of publishing one’s work. Third, collaborate with mentors and colleagues. Research is difficult to conduct when there are few nearby colleagues who share interest in Asian American issues. Form networks with others throughout the country (and even overseas) to advance research. Fourth, find ways to obtain data on Asian Americans. Asian Americans are a relatively small population and we still have problems in obtaining sample sizes for research. Collecting data from multiple sites, using archival datasets, secondary data analysis, governmental records, etc. should all be utilized.