S. Steve Arounsack, Ph.D.

Steve Arounsack, Ph.D.

2022 Outstanding Faculty Scholarship

S. Steve Arounsack, Ph.D.

California State University, Stanislaus
Professor, Anthropology
Director, Keck Visual Anthropology Lab

What if we had the chance to nurture future heroes? That's the question we have the privilege of answering every day as educators. We get to witness our students’ origin stories and help them discover their superpowers."

As an internationally recognized scholar on Lao culture and portions of Southeast Asia, Dr. Steve Arounsack’s work reflects a deep passion to engage, educate and inform. He challenges his students to "learn by doing," and engages their curiosity with technology-enhanced active learning pedagogies. His commitment to the innovative use of classroom technology earned him the prestigious Sony Award for Innovative Teaching with Technology, and spurred his efforts to secure funding for the Keck Visual Anthropology Lab. One of the most advanced laboratories of its kind, it provides a fully operational learning platform to produce professional-grade visual media projects.

Dr. Arounsack is known for combining research and methodology coursework with hands-on experience using digital media tools. The result is deeply engaged students who are skilled at documenting and archiving cultural information that might otherwise go unnoticed or forgotten. The students’ academic experience is further enriched by Dr. Arounsack’s willingness to involve them in his own scholarly and creative activities, including the ideation and production of award-winning films and documentaries. He is perhaps best known for his insightful “Next Gen Asian American Art” documentary, and his historic exploration of changing norms in Laos, “Getting Lao’d: The Rise of Modern Music and Film.”

More recently, Dr. Arounsack was selected to serve as the lead cultural advisor and principal visual anthropologist on Disney Animation Studios’ “Raya and the Last Dragon.” This film is noteworthy because it is the first feature-length Disney film to focus on Southeast Asian cultures.

In addition to his extensive visual media work, Dr. Arounsack was one of the early members of “Legacies of War,” the leading U.S.-based advocacy group for removing unexploded ordnance in Laos. He created the Legacies of War Multimedia Interactive Center to illuminate the need for Congressional funding.

Dr. Arounsack remains profoundly focused on student success, mentoring numerous students who were accepted into strong visual anthropology graduate programs. He also provided mentorship for a student who is a U.S. military veteran to start his own media company. He recently served as the faculty advisor for Stanislaus State’s first Fulbright Scholar, who studied in Laos.