Sandra Wawrytko and the Charles Wei-Hsun Fu Foundation Making a Difference for Ethnic Studies

By Keely Bamberg

Charles Fu and founation logo - flowers and butterfly

Charles Wei-Hsun Fu, Ph.D. (1933-1996) and foundation logo

During the summer of 2020, professor of philosophy Sandra Wawrytko determined it was time to, as the Chinese saying goes, “Forge ahead and do what is right.” 

She made the decision to reach out to fellow board members of the Charles Wei-Hsun Fu Foundation (named after her late husband) to recommend a donation to the Department of Africana Studies within SDSU’s College of Arts and Letters.

Wawrytko knew the department would benefit from philanthropy because she had been immersed in the important effort to institutionalize an ethnic studies requirement for SDSU through her work as director of the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies.

Wawrytko was impressed by the passionate leadership of her CAL colleague Adisa Alkebulan, associate professor and director of the Department of Africana Studies. She learned from Alkebulan that the department had recently suffered losses (due to faculty retirements and the untimely passing of Professor Francis Njubi Nesbitt). Meanwhile, funds to hire new lecturers were scarce.

Following the death of George Floyd and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests, along with the uncertainty of state funding, Wawrytko knew a Fu Foundation gift to support the department was essential. As a faculty member affiliated with the Asian studies program, Wawrytko felt a deep sense of solidarity with many CAL ethnic studies departments, and with Africana studies in particular, during such a critical moment in Black history. 

The Fu Foundation’s mission is to use education to promote quality of life for all — with guiding principles tied to issues of social justice. Wawrytko said, “I hope the educational experiences supported by this gift will cause SDSU students to be more aware of the need for diversity, inclusion, and equity – not as mere labels, but as a call for action and healing change.”

With the Fu Foundation gift, Wawrytko wants to encourage generosity for causes like ethnic studies. “I hope we can inspire others to join us in our quest for diversity, inclusion, and equity. It is so gratifying to be a part of this movement at this crucial ‘inflection point’ in society,” she said.

Wawrytko is thankful to SDSU President Adela de la Torre and Provost Hector Ochoa for their support in incorporating strong and thriving ethnic studies programs to enhance campus culture. She observed that many faculty and students are unaware of the long history of ethnic studies as an academic discipline in California, or the experiences shared by African Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans, and Chicanas and Chicanos. 

Wawrytko believes that providing additional resources for any of the ethnic studies academic departments or centers at SDSU allows the movement to expand within the community.

The motto “all for one and one for all” resonates with Wawrytko. “We have a common cause and face common challenges in confronting systemic racism,” she said. Wawrytko and the Fu Foundation are dedicated to uplifting voices that have not been heard or respected due to ignorance or fear. 

The generous gift to the Department of Africana Studies will have considerable impact for both ethnic studies as well as the broader university, and ultimately the students.

 

For more about the Fu Foundation, visit http://charlesweihsunfu.org/about.