People / Faculty


Catherine Ceniza Choy


Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies, Comparative Ethnic Studies

Adoption, Asian American History, Gender, Migration, Nursing, Philippine and Filipino American Studies

Ph.D., History, University of California, Los Angeles, June 1998
M.A., History, University of California, Los Angeles, 1993
B.A., History, cum laude, Pomona College, Claremont, 1991

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526 Social Sciences Building

On Leave 2023-2024


t: 510-643-0796

Bio & Research Interests

Catherine Ceniza Choy is an award-winning Asian American historian and professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Asian American Histories of the United States  (2022) published by Beacon Press. The book features the themes of violence, erasure, and resistance in a nearly 200 year history of Asian migration, labor, and community formation in the US. It was awarded a 2022 Kirkus Star from Kirkus Reviews for books of exceptional merit; named a Best of 2022 Nonfiction Book by Kirkus Reviews and Ms. Magazine; featured in the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s 2023 National Day of Racial Healing book list; and a nonfiction finalist for the 2023 Dayton Literary Peace Prize.

Choy’s first book, Empire of Care: Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History (2003), explored how and why the Philippines became the leading exporter of professional nurses to the United States. Empire of Care received the 2003 American Journal of Nursing History and Public Policy Book Award and the 2005 Association for Asian American Studies History Book Award. Her second book, Global Families: A History of Asian International Adoption in America (2013), unearthed the little-known historical origins of Asian international adoption in the United States beginning with the post-World War II presence of the U.S. military in Asia. Choy also co-edited the anthology, Gendering the Trans-Pacific World (2017), with Judy Tzu-Chun Wu.

In 2023, Choy is the recipient of the Agnes Dillon Randolph Award. This award recognizes her outstanding scholarship documenting the experiences of Filipino nurses in U.S. history and the importance of that history for understanding ongoing issues in health care, including the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Filipino nurses. An engaged public scholar, Choy has been interviewed and had her research cited in many media outlets, including ABC 20/20, The Atlantic, CNN, Los Angeles Times, NBC News, New York Times, ProPublica, San Francisco Chronicle, and Vox.

Choy is a former Department Chair of Ethnic Studies (2012-2015, 2018-2019), Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies Division (2019-2021), and Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging, and Justice in UC Berkeley’s Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (2021-2023). She received her Ph.D. in History from UCLA and her B.A. in History from Pomona College. The daughter of Filipino immigrants, she was born and raised in New York City. She lives in Berkeley with her husband Greg Choy.

Courses Taught

ASAMST 20A: Introduction to Asian American History

ASAMST 24: Asian American History in American Musicals

ASAMST 124: Filipino American History

ASAMST 190: Asian American History in the Age of COVID-19

ETH STD 12: Contemporary Issues in Ethnic Studies: “Pandemics”

ETH STD C135A: Migration in the Contemporary World

ETH GRP 201: History and Narrativity

ETH GRP 250: Research Seminar on Asian American History

ETH GRP 250: Research Seminar on Gender and the Trans-Pacific World


Empire of care
Global families
Tikim: Essays on Philippine Food and Culture

Recent Writing

Transforming Ephemera Into Evidence: Reflections on Catalina Cariaga’s Cultural Evidence,” Digital Catalogue essay for Notes on Cultural Evidence exhibition, July 2023.

Ronald Takaki (1939–2009), In Memoriam, Long Overdue,” Perspectives On History, the newsmagazine of the American Historical Association, April 28, 2023.

The COVID Era is the Latest Episode of Medical Scapegoating of Asian Immigrants,” History News Network, August 7, 2022. Reprinted in The Berkeley BlogBeacon BroadsideLA Progressive, and Positively Filipino.

When the Reporter Asks You Why There Are So Many Filipino Nurses in the U.S.,” in AAWW’s (Asian American Writers’ Workshop) magazine, The Margins, May 17, 2021.

“In This Country,” in Sparked: George Floyd, Racism, and the Progressive Illusion, eds. Walter R. Jacobs, Wendy Thompson Taiwo, and Amy August (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, May 2021), 33-36. Originally published in The Society Pages, June 17, 2020, as part of the special essay series, “Wonderful/Wretched Memories of Racial Dynamics in the Twin Cities, Minnesota,” and reprinted in The Berkeley Blog as “Brushes with racism in Minnesota and why Black lives matter,” June 24, 2020.


The history of Filipino nurses in the U.S.,” WBEZChicago Reset with Sasha-Ann Simons, October 10, 2023. Choy is a guest on this WBEZ live daily talk show.

Filipino Americans were invisibilized in American society—now, they’re reclaiming their space and identity,” Stacker, September 29, 2023. Choy’s research on the history of Filipino nurses in the U.S. referenced in news story.

Zócalo’s 2023 Summer Reading List Delivers Much-Needed R&R,” Zócalo Public Square, June 5, 2023. California Poet Laureate Lee Herrick recommends Asian American Histories of the United States in this summer reading roundup.

Teaching Black and Asian American Solidarity in the Classroom,” Beacon Broadside, By Brian Batugo, June 2, 2023. San Diego Unified School District Ethnic Studies resource teacher Brian Batugo references Asian American Histories of the United States in this guest piece.

Powerhouse Yuri Kochiyama Showed Up for Black and Asian American Solidarity,” Beacon Broadside, May 19, 2023. Excerpt from Asian American Histories of the United States posted to commemorate Yuri Kochiyama’s birthday.

35 Must-Read Books of Nonfiction by AAPI Authors,” Book Riot, By Patricia Thang, May 10, 2023. Asian American Histories of the United States included in must-read AAPI Heritage Month roundup.

On this day 141 years ago, a new law began reshaping America. More than a century later, Congress apologized for it,” CNN, By Catherine E. Shoichet, May 6, 2023. Asian American Histories of the United States referenced in article.

Diving into AAPI history with May’s Book of the Month picks,” WUWM 89.7 FM, Milwaukee’s NPR, By Mallory Cheng, Robert Larry, May 1, 2023. Librarian Dan Lee recommends Asian American Histories of the United States for AAPI Heritage Month.



Contra Costa College, “Why There Are So Many Filipinx Nurses: The Story of Philippine Migration to the U.S.,” October 16, 2023, online event.

Emory University AAPI Teach-In, Keynote Speaker: Catherine Ceniza Choy, October 13, 2023, Atlanta, GA.

AABA (Asian American Bar Association) of Houston 2023 Gala, Keynote Speaker: Catherine Ceniza Choy, September 22, 2023, Houston, TX.

San Francisco Art Book Fair, “Transforming Ephemera Into Evidence: A Conversation between Catalina Cariaga and Catherine Ceniza Choy,” July 16, 2023, San Francisco, CA.

Santa Cruz Public Libraries, “In Conversation with Cathy Choy: Author of Asian American Histories of the United States with Alice Yang,” May 18, 2023, Capitola, CA.

Las Positas College Literary Arts Festival, “Catherine Ceniza Choy: On Asian Americans in the US, Scholarly Writing and Publication,” May 13, 2023, Livermore, CA.

Yale University, “Social Justice Event: Dr. Catherine Choy Talk and Q&A on History of Anti-Asian Hate,” May 10, 2023, online.

Town Hall Seattle Civics Series, “Angela Tucker, Catherine Ceniza Choy, and Samira Mehta: Stories of Transracial Adoption,” May 3, 2023, Seattle, WA.

Université Libre de Bruxelles, “BelMix Seminar “Mixed race lives: Asian American histories of international adoption, intermarriage, and people of mixed heritage,” April 25, 2023, Brussels, Belgium.

University of Virginia Randolph Award Lecture, “History and Memory of Filipino Nurses in U.S. Health-Care Delivery,” April 18, 2023, online.

New Orleans Book Festival, “Catherine Ceniza Choy in Conversation with Annalise Singh,” March 11, 2023, Tulane University.

New York Public Library and Asian American Writers’ Workshop, “Talking Books: Asian American Authors in Conversation—Catherine Ceniza Choy, author of Asian American Histories of the United States,” February 15, 2023, online.

Gilder Lehman Institute of American History Book Breaks, “Asian American Histories of the United States,” January 1, 2023, interview series with historians, online.

Selected Honors & Awards

UC Berkeley Spark Grant Award, 2023-2024

UC Berkeley Humanities Research Fellowship, 2023-2024

UCHRI Engaging Humanities Grant, Co-PI with Drs. Steve McKay and Kathleen Gutierrez on “Watsonville is in the Heart: Mapping a Recuperative History of Filipino Farmworkers,” 2023-2024

Agnes Dillon Randolph Award, University of Virginia Eleanor Crowder Bjoring Center for Nursing Historical Inquiry, 2023

Peder Sather Center for Advanced Study Grant, Co-PI with Dr. Linn Normand on “Exhuming Immigrant Voices From the Past: A Critical Archival Study of the Bancroft Library,” 2020-2023

Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer, 2017-2020

UC Berkeley Townsend Center for the Humanities Senior Faculty Fellow, 2018-2019

Institute of International Studies Faculty Interdisciplinary Program Grant with Drs. Weihong Bao, SanSan Kwan, and Laura C. Nelson on “Gender and the Trans-Pacific World,” 2016-2018

Social Science Matrix Research Team Award on “Migration, Racialization, and Gender: Comparing Filipino Migration to France and the US,” 2017-2018

Fulbright Distinguished Lectureship, Yonsei University, Korea, 2015-2016

Organization of American Historians Japanese Residencies Program, Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo, 2011

Edith Kreeger Wolf Distinguished Visiting Professor, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, 2005

Association for Asian American Studies History Book Award for Empire of Care, 2005

American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Award in History and Public Policy for Empire of Care, 2003