Panel: The Asian American and Pacific Islander Perspective
October 25, 2021

Over the past year, we saw a rise in the number of hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Asian Americans became scapegoats for the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, and across the nation we witnessed incidents of harassment, xenophobic rhetoric, and even physical assault.

What do we need to know about the traumatic personal experiences of AAPI members of our community? How can we learn more about others’ cultural heritages? How can we be better allies to AAPI students and faculty on the UT campus and more informed global citizens? How do we understand other perspectives?

Join us via Zoom at, noon to 1:30 p.m., Monday, November 8, for a conversation with members of the UT and Knoxville communities who are committed to cultural outreach. The event is part of a series of lunchtime conversations on sometimes difficult subjects related to diversity and inclusion, hosted by the UT Libraries’ Diversity Committee.

Members of our panel have lived and worked in Korea, Thailand, and Japan. One of our panelists, Elena Sonbok McMillan, president of the Knoxville Area Korean Association, this past year recorded a poignant message about her own experience of hateful rhetoric and public shunning in the wake of the pandemic.


Our panel:

Nathalie Hristov, moderator. M. Nathalie Hristov has served as Associate Professor and Music Librarian at the University of Tennessee since 2005. Since 2009, professor Hristov also serves as Exhibits Coordinator for the University of Tennessee Ready for the World Music Series. Her research on marketing music library services and diversity programming has been presented at national and international conferences including the national conference of the Music Library Association, and the International Association of Music Libraries. Her written works have been published by peer-reviewed journals, which include Music and Reference Services Quarterly, Technical Services Quarterly, Science and Technology Libraries, the Journal of Creative Library Practice, and Tennessee Libraries. Currently, she serves as Secretary of the Service and Training Section of the International Association of Music Libraries and is a member of their Outreach Committee. She is also on the board and has served as Secretary of HoLa Hora Latina, a non-profit organization that promotes Hispanic culture and heritage throughout East Tennessee. At the University of Tennessee, she serves on the UT Faculty Senate and is a member of the Senate’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Elena Sonbok McMillan. Elena Sonbok McMillan is the current president of the Knoxville Area Korean Association which was founded in 1982. The Association prepares many cultural events, such as Kimchi Festival, Kpop contest, Atlanta Korean American Sports Festival, and supports the yearly Asian Festival. The Association has also offered classes in Korean cooking, language, and culture. The Korean American citizens value our local community by valuing education and providing prominent members of many professions. The Association has a strong sense of community and public service. The Association prides itself on bringing harmony and unity into our local communities.

Joy Panigabutra-Roberts. Anchalee (Joy) Panigabutra-Roberts is Head of Cataloging at the University of Tennessee Libraries. She was born and raised in Thailand and has worked in the library profession over 30 years in four countries (Thailand, Canada, Egypt and the US). She has worked with Southeast Asian, Japanese, Chinese, Aboriginal Canadian, LGBTQA, Egyptology, and Middle Eastern collections. She was a subject librarian for Women’s and Gender Studies and education. Currently she is a member of Asian Pacific American Librarians Association. For her education, she received her MLIS from University of Wisconsin-Madison, with B.A. in English (Literature) from St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota, and B.A. in English (Linguistics) from Chiangmai University in Thailand.

Catherine Luther. Before returning to the academic world for her Ph.D., Dr. Luther worked both in the United States and in Japan as a producer of television news. She is now the director of the School of Journalism and Electronic Media at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and also teaches in the areas of international journalism, media and diversity, communication and information science theories, and research methods. Her research interests include global communication and security issues as well as issues involving media, diversity, equity, and inclusion. She is currently Co-Chair of UT’s Commission for Women.