Recent Graduate Wins Prestigious Asian Studies Paper Prize | St. Lawrence University

Recent Graduate Wins Prestigious Asian Studies Paper Prize

Taylor Armijo ’20 is the recipient of the New York Conference on Asian Studies’ 2020 Marleigh Grayer Ryan Undergraduate Paper Prize for her paper, “In An Era of Reform: Reimagining Government Control in the Chinese Film Industry.”

“Despite our abrupt transition this past semester and the devastating news that her softball season would be canceled, Taylor had the wherewithal to put together a prize-winning paper on the Chinese film industry, exploring how the Chinese government navigated among the competing interests of artistic freedom, censorship, and market success,” says Grace Huang, St. Lawrence’s Charles D., Sarah & John D. Munsil Associate Professor of Government.

Taylor, who majored in mathematics and minored in computer science, statistics, and Asian studies while at St. Lawrence, chose to write about the Chinese film industry during the reform era because she “wanted to see the extent to which censorship was restricted or loosened during a period of such economic liberalization in a traditionally very strictly monitored society.”

“The fall of Mao Zedong and the rise of Deng Xiaoping pushed China into a period of modernization and liberalization in an attempt to catch up with the rest of the world, which dramatically affected the way art was seen and used,” she says. “While film was a propaganda tool prior to the reform era, it blossomed into a commercial and entertainment product, which gave filmmakers a platform to explore political and social issues or ideas in a way that was greatly suppressed under Mao. This interested me because Chinese censorship tends to be interpreted as very strict, unwavering, and unchanging, however, the leniency given to the film industry reflects a moving and conditional censorship system that at time gives filmmakers more or less freedom depending on the changing political climate.”

“The Asian studies minor was a way for me to appreciate a culture so different from mine and form my own opinions and thoughts about countries that are so often negatively portrayed in American media.”

Taylor Armijo ’20

Taylor pursued a minor in Asian Studies because it encouraged her to expand her understanding of the world and look at where she comes from in a different light, and because she wanted to challenge herself to think and learn in ways she couldn’t in her STEM major. That opportunity arose while she took Huang’s Comparative Politics class during her sophomore year, and continued through her time studying abroad in Suzhou, China, her junior year.

“I was deeply interested in the differences between Chinese and American society in particular and wanted to understand Chinese culture and history to better inform my thoughts on the subject,” Taylor says. “The Asian studies minor was a way for me to appreciate a culture so different from mine and form my own opinions and thoughts about countries that are so often negatively portrayed in American media.”

A Saint Lawrence University students stands in front of the Great Wall of China.

Taylor studied abroad in Suzhou, China, during her junior year at St. Lawrence.

Taylor, who is now working at Raytheon Technologies as a software engineer, is grateful for the mentoring she received from Huang throughout her time at St. Lawrence. “I would not have won this prize had it not been for the continual guidance and support I received from Dr. Huang,” Taylor says. “This project showed me a lot about Chinese culture that I wouldn’t have understood otherwise, and I think I’ve become a better global citizen because of my time in Asian studies.”

The New York Conference on Asian Studies (NYCAS) is among the oldest of the nine regional conferences of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS), the largest society of its kind in the world, and awards annual prizes for excellent student papers dealing with Asia. Two such prizes are awarded each year: one to an undergraduate student and one to a graduate student. Runners-up are named in each category.

The prizes honor the outstanding service of Marleigh Grayer Ryan, former Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Professor of Japanese Literature, and Coordinator of Asian Studies at SUNY New Paltz; and longtime Executive Secretary of NYCAS.

Taylor is the sixth St. Lawrence student to win during Huang’s tenure. Each year, St. Lawrence students compete against students from other New York colleges and universities. Other St. Lawrence winners include Jordan Flanagan ’19, Tatenda Pasipanodya ’14, Nora Langan ’11, Jake Birchard ’10, and Kevin Keeper ’08.