USC boosters Karen Wong and Scott Lee recently endowed the Jon Chu Asian Pacific Alumni Association Cinematic Arts Scholarship, which provides financial aid for students working on media projects that portray aspects of the Asian Pacific culture. Wong and Lee named the scholarship in honor of Chu, an alumnus and the director of the 2018 film “Crazy Rich Asians.”
According to Justin Wilson, the senior director of alumni relations at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, the scholarship with a $100,000 endowment will be awarded this semester and will continue to be awarded on an annual basis. SCA students whose projects focus on the representation of Asian Pacific culture are eligible for scholarship consideration.
Wong, a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee for the USC Alumni Association’s Board of Governors, first approached SCA dean Elizabeth Daley in February 2007 to establish an AAPA scholarship, which was recently renamed in honor of Chu.
“I don’t think pursuing a career in the entertainment industry is one of the career paths that Asian parents typically envision for their kids, so I was really impressed by his path,” Wong said.
Wong said the long term goal is for more people to donate to the endowment over time and to keep the scholarship growing in an effort to support students who are not recognized for their passions. The scholarship also seeks to encourage diversity and inclusion in the film industry.
“I hope that over time others will donate to the endowment to further the gift,” Lee said.
Lee said that in years past, the film industry has not produced many films focusing on Asian American experiences and that these kinds of films were “not recognized or really supported.”
Wong said that USC has been working hard to integrate diversity and inclusion on campus, such as by incorporating more representation on the board.
“Our vision is for it to grow into a large endowment where multiple students engaged in a career path that will further this genre will be awarded,” Wong said.
Many students are inspired by Chu’s success story as he graduated from SCA in 2003. Freshman Ethan Soo, who is majoring in film production, said that the spotlight being shined on the lack of Asian American voices in the entertainment industry provides hope for many young USC film makers.
“People like Jon Chu and Eugene Yang are my role models,” Soo said. “They’ve definitely been the pioneers of this new culture shift. It’s been great to see people who look similar to me and the fact that USC is helping to give Asian students a voice is fantastic.”