The Asian American theme house was established at Stanford in 1971 to create community and center the experiences of a very small and primarily first generation Asian American student population. Renamed in 1979 after John Okada who is recognized as the first Asian American novelist, Okada House continues to explore and celebrate the diversity of Asian American peoples, cultures, and languages in a historical and contemporary context.
In addition to fostering a warm and vibrant community, Okada serves as a focal point for students in the residence and across campus to explore the Asian American experience and what it means to be Asian in America–how it is experienced by those who are connected to Asian American Identity, as well as by those who are not (and the people who feel in-between).
Through weekly presentations by upperclass residents on topics such as Immigration Narratives, Intersectional Identities, and Art & Activism; dynamic programs with faculty; trips to local community organizations such as the South Asian Radical History Walking Tour; teach-ins at the People’s Teahouse; student group performances and events; critical conversations; and the lived experience, Okada creates an inclusive space where people of all identities and backgrounds can be vulnerable, explore identity, and uplift their voices together as a community.
All residents, those who identify as Asian American and those who don't, contribute to the vibrancy of our dorm community. We have two main goals: First, to be a community in which the residents living in Okada feel at home and are cared for – “Okada Means Family”. Second, to serve as space for the campus community to explore, engage in, and thinking critically about the Asian American experience.
Edith is the Associate Dean and Director for New Students Programs in Academic Advising where she oversees the welcome and transition of new first-year and transfer students to Stanford through the Approaching Stanford process and New Student Orientation. She also collaborates closely with University partners to carry out programs that promote a sense of belonging to the Stanford community. As a Stanford alumna, Edith (’99) is quite convinced she has the best job on campus. While Stanford has changed in so many ways since she was a first-year student in 1995, it is still the same place where she grew into herself. What a privilege it is to now work with young people who are learning both about themselves and about how they can best contribute to this community. Edith earned her Master’s degree from the Harvard School of Public Health and her Bachelor’s degree from Stanford where she studied Human Biology and Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. While an undergrad at Stanford, Edith worked at the Haas Center for Public Service, co-led a service group called Project AIYME (Asian American Initiative for Youth Motivation & Empowerment), participated in Alternative Spring Breaks, and was an RA for Twain House – in fact, it was her Twain RFs, Arcadio and Ellen Morales, who encouraged her to come back to Stanford to work, first in Res Ed and then in Academic Advising. Prior to returning to Stanford in 2006, she worked in community development non-profits in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, including as a youth counselor for Asian Americans for Community Involvement, a community-based organization providing health and human services to the Asian Pacific Islander community in San Jose; the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health; and the Head Start/Early Head Start Program of San Mateo County. Edith’s Stanford roots run deep: her parents moved from Taiwan to Stanford where her father earned his PhD in Civil Engineering, her mother worked in the East Asian Library Collection on campus, her sister (’95) and brother (’02) are graduates, and her brother-in-law (’95) was a ‘94-95 Okada RA.
John is the Logistics Director for Informatica, a software development company based in Redwood City where he has worked since 2000. Before switching into the tech field, he worked as a youth and family counselor and as a development associate for Asian Americans for Community Involvement. John was born in Vietnam and moved to the US with his family in 1974, living first in Tennessee near his sponsor family, and then moving to California where he grew up. John was a FLI student (first-generation, low-income), earned his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at UC Santa Cruz, and spent a year with the Master’s in Social Work program at San Jose State University. John is a loyal Bay Area sports fan and is always looking for folks to watch Warriors and Niners games with him.
From 2008-2016, Edith and John served as the RFs for the off-campus Oak Creek Apartments, which housed undergraduates for eight years. Now, you can find this RF family taking walks around campus or spending time with their extended family, all of whom live in the area and visit Okada frequently. Continuing the tradition of the beloved former Okada RF, Anne Takemoto, they make Okada's famous banana bread on a weekly basis!
2 floors are single gendered and 1 is co-ed.
Additional Community Information
What’s the coolest thing about your house and community?
We respect and celebrate our residents’ experiences and backgrounds through presentations on theme-related topics, interactions with faculty about their research, making challah together, sponsoring ramen nights, sharing boba, exploring the cultural diversity of the Bay Area, or just planning epic Smash Bros. tournaments. We encourage residents to be thoughtful in their interactions with each other and create a space where we can learn from each other in all kinds of settings.
What qualities make a successful Okada staff team member?
The best staff members have a vested interest in the residents, experience with and appreciation for the Okada theme and community, and are consistently present in the dorm. More than just worrying about residents’ safety, great staff members make the effort to really get to know residents well and interact with them frequently, whether through chance encounters in the hall, meal times, or through dorm events. Being cohesive and having really good chemistry between staff members is important as well. It really sets a good example for residents.
- If you are interested in applying to a staff position at Okada, please include a recommendation from a supervisor/advisor for a job or student group position you’ve held at Stanford.
What’s your favorite event or tradition in your house?
At our weekly house meetings we recognize a resident who has gone above and beyond to promote dorm bonding with the dorm’s “community award,” (we actually borrowed this tradition from Zapata many years ago). The resident “fosters” the dorm’s warm, cuddly stuffed animal for a week, adds an accessory, and passes it on to the next recipient. By the end of the year, the stuffed animal is covered with clever and fun accessories.
Requirements to Qualify for Pre-Assignment
Requirements for Pre-assigned Residents of Okada
If pre-assigned to Okada, you must:
- Participate in the dorm community, attend house meetings regularly, and support other dorm activities.
- Participate in all theme projects , tentatively scheduled for Wednesday nights from 6:00-7:00 p.m.
- Attend meetings with the Ethnic Theme Associates.
- Develop and lead a theme project.