‘She Understands:’ Asian American Professor Candi Yano Shares Life Lessons With Students

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Professor Candi Yano is the first Asian American woman to serve as chair of the Berkeley Haas faculty and as associate dean for academic affairs. (Berkeley Haas photo by Laura Counts).

As Asian Pacific American Heritage Month comes to an end, Candi Yano, a professor at the Haas School of Business and in the Industrial Engineering and Operations Research Department, shares the story of her maternal grandfather, who chose to return to Japan with his wife and four children after they were sent to a relocation camp in California during World War II — only to be killed when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, where he was working as a newspaper editor.

“He was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” says Yano, in an interview with Laura Counts, a writer at Berkeley Haas.

Yano visited Hiroshima a few years ago. The Chugoku Shimbun newspaper is still in existence, and she recounts in the Q & A what it was like to see photographs of the paper’s former headquarters after it was destroyed by fire in the August 1945 bombing.

Despite what happened in our country during the war to Japanese Americans, and to her family, Yano says her parents were not bitter. If they had been, “they would have passed it on to me … I consider myself lucky. I can be Japanese American, but not live with that sense of bitterness.”

After growing up in Southern California, Yano, who has a Ph.D. in industrial engineering, worked at Bell Labs in New Jersey and taught at the University of Michigan before coming to Berkeley. An international expert on supply chain management, she became the first Asian American woman to serve as chair of the Berkeley Haas faculty and as associate dean for academic affairs.

As an Asian American faculty member, she says she feels she can provide her Asian students with a special understanding of what it feels like “to be caught between two cultures.”

“A lot of times,” she says, “I can help them work through the challenge of finding their own career trajectory that might not have been what their parents had planned for them. Also, in my classes, I try to help the students who are quieter. In some Asian cultures, you don’t speak unless you’re spoken to. I try to draw them out, so they can feel more comfortable. Because I’m Asian, they can look at me and they say, ‘She does understand.’”

It’s a divisive time in our world, Yano adds. But on the Berkeley campus. “it’s better than in most places. We can talk openly, and I think that helps.”

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