SURF Fellow Corinne Tam

Recent graduate Corinne Tam was curious to learn more about masculinity within the Asian-American community, after understanding female empowerment and patriarchy. Tam took a particular interest in studying the experiences of Asian-Americans, which stemmed from her studies in sociology and women’s studies. 

Through the sociology club, she received a travel grant to go to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to present her senior thesis on cultural expectations of success in Asian-American families. These interests carried over this summer as Tam participated in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program. SURF is an eight-week paid program that allows undergraduate students to pursue research and creative activity with a faculty mentor. 

Under the mentorship of Dr. Edson Cruz, Tam explored the idea of transnational business masculinity (TBM) in young Asian-American men. Tam explained that “people often think about masculinity as something singular, but sociologists study masculinity along a broad spectrum—some are more powerful than others.” According to sociologist Raewyn Connell, TBM is a “flexible, calculative, egocentric masculinity of the ‘fast capitalist’ entrepreneur” and is the most powerful one. 

 “So you can think of men in suits that are trying to climb the ladder,” Tam described. 

SURF Fellow Corinne Tam at the Eastern Sociological Conference in Philadelphia, PA

Tam conducted 12 qualitative interviews in Asian-American men aged 20-24 in both working and middle class backgrounds. She found four different outcomes: working class men that embraced TBM, middle class men that embraced TBM, working class men that rejected TBM, and middle class men that rejected TBM. From the data, she saw that a common route for Asian-American men pursuing this ideal is through STEM careers, maintained from stereotypes about Asian-Americans and stereotypes that prevent them from climbing the corporate ladder.

Tam admitted that research has not always been a big desire of hers, but she changed her mind when she got to Chapman. She realized it was much more than just sitting at a desk and taking notes, but a way to incorporate personal interests and materials from class. With SURF, Tam was able to personalize her project and research what matters to her, while meeting a range of people from different disciplines.

Tam plans to pursue a PhD in sociology at the University of Massachusetts in 2022, but is still deciding her path. She lives by the words of her women’s studies professor, CK Magliola, to “follow your interest, and it will lead to your passion,” which has worked well for her. 

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