About the Project

Learn how the CSU Nisei Diploma Project came about and how an estimated 250 Japanese Americans who were once CSU students were recognized with an honorary Bachelor of Humane Letters degree.

In 1942, an estimated 250 Japanese American students were forced to leave their CSU campuses and relocated to internment camps during World War II under federal Executive Order 9066.

On September 23, 2009, the CSU Board of Trustees unanimously voted to honor the academic intentions of these students by awarding them Special Honorary Bachelor of Humane Letters degrees. This is the CSU Nisei Diploma Project.

“The internment of Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants during World War II represents the worst of a nation driven by fear and prejudice,” said then-California State University Chancellor Charles B. Reed in a statement.

“By issuing honorary degrees, we hope to achieve a small right in the face of such grave wrongs.”

The CSU worked closely with Assembly Member Warren Furutani, author of Assembly Bill 37, various organizations in the Japanese American community, and the six CSU campuses where historical documents estimate that 250 Japanese Americans were enrolled in spring 1942.

CSU campuses honored the former students at their regular spring commencement ceremonies in 2010 or at special ceremonies coinciding with commencements.

Through these efforts, the California State University strived to:

  • Help heal the wounds of the injustice suffered by Japanese Americans living in California during World War II;
  • Identify former students enrolled in the CSU whose college education was disrupted due to federal Executive Order 9066;
  • Honor the academic intentions of the Japanese American students enrolled in the CSU;
  • Present an honorary degree to the former students or their families in a meaningful way at campus ceremonies; and
  • Welcome these former students back to the CSU.
The production and disseimination of the stories were funded by a $23,000 grant to the CSU Chancellor's Office through the California State Library's California Civil Liberties Program.

For more information about the Nisei Diploma Project, please contact Alison Wrynn.

Honorary Committee

Assembly Member Warren Furutani
Author of AB 37

Congressman Mike Honda

Norm Mineta
Former Congressman and U.S. Secretary of Transportation

George Takei
Actor; Former Chairman of the Japanese American National Museum

Joan Otomo-Corgel
CSU Trustee Emeritus and Fresno State Alumna whose father is a Fresno honoree

Jan Yanehiro
Bay Area broadcast newscaster and host of community-interest programs

Yoshihiro Uchida
Former Olympic and judo coach at SJSU

Paul Osaki
Executive Director, Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California

James Hirabayashi
Founding curator of the Japanese American National Museum

Kevin Starr
California State Librarian Emeritus and Administrator of the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program

Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
Author of "Farewell to Manzanar"

Bob H. Suzuki
Former President of Cal Poly Pomona

Akemi Kikumura Yano
Executive Director of the Japanese American National Museum

Dale Minami
Attorney; Chaired the federal Civil Liberties Public Education Program

Margaret Iwanaga Penrose
President and Chief Executive Officer, Union of Pan Asian Communities

Helen Kawagoe
Board of Governors, Japanese American National Museum and Carson City Clerk