American Studies | Morse College

Senior Essay Title:  "The Influence of the Portland Public Schools Mandarin Immersion Program on Chinese American Adoptee Students’ Identity Formation (1998-2008)"

Adviser: Mary Lui

Abstract: From the 1990s through the recent 2010s, Americans have adopted Chinese children, (mostly girls), in large numbers. The effect is such that there are now tens of thousands of Chinese American adoptees in America today. My senior essay is an autoethnography on the Portland Public Schools’ Chinese immersion program, established in 1998, that had a large population of Chinese adopted girls. Through interviews with teachers, parents, and adoptee students involved in the program, I first examined the origins of the Chinese immersion program and what factors went into creating it at that particular time and place. I then assessed how being in the Chinese immersion program impacted the way in which adoptees in the program view our racial, adoptive, and familial identities. I found that being surrounded by such a large proportion of other adoptees, (as well as a significant population of other Asian students), both normalized adoption for us and complicated our ideas of “Chinese-ness”. Into college, our way of viewing adoption, race, and family differed from many of our peers. College was a significant time of exposure to other ways of thinking and for deeper reflection upon how our own upbringing has affected our identity formation.