Interim Provost Fung’s Influence on the Hilltop

The fellowship that brought Interim Provost Eileen Fung to USF was renamed in 2016 to the Gerardo Marín Diversity Fellowships. Photo by Samantha Avila Griffins/SF Foghorn.

Eileen Chia-Ching Fung has been an integral part of the USF community for more than 25 years. From assisting in the establishment of the Honors College, to serving as associate dean of arts and humanities, she’s worn many hats at USF. Since last fall, Fung has served as the Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs. 

After the sudden departure of former Provost Chinyere Oparah on May 24, 2023, Fung stepped into the interim provost position. “I was honored when Father Paul approached me to serve,” she said.

The Foghorn interviewed Fung in her office on the top floor of the Rossi Wing, overlooking San Francisco’s skyline. Her bright office is adorned with photos, a few stuffed animals and books on her favorite topic, British medieval literature. Fung sat perched on her armchair while speaking about her plans for the university.

As interim provost, she is working to make USF more affordable to students, despite this year’s 4.9% increase in tuition. “We are budgeting $162 million for financial aid,” she said. “Approximately 97% of our students receive some sort of aid. It’s our priority for our fundraising to make sure that we are able to close that gap.”

Fung is working on strengthening USF’s liberal arts education. “I work with the academic deans in the schools and colleges to define and implement the academic vision and curriculum, ensuring that our Jesuit liberal arts education meets the promises we made to our students,” Fung shared in an additional written statement to the Foghorn. 

She came to USF in 1998 as a James Irvine Ethnic Minority Dissertation Fellow. The fellowship, “[had] a highly successful record of recruiting and retaining talented ethnic minority scholars from across the country,” according to USF’s website.  

Prior to her current role, Fung has served as chair of the English department, director of the Asian-American Pacific Studies Program, associate dean of arts and humanities, senior associate dean, and interim dean. 

Fung found her role as the chair of the English Department most difficult, balancing her responsibilities as a young mother raising two children with her professional career. 

“I was worried about not only how to be effective in my new leadership role, but also if I was able to have enough time to finish, to do research, and do well in teaching to get tenure.”

“When I was called to the Associate Dean’s position…, it was at a time when there had not been any female faculty of color serving in the dean’s leadership team,” she said in the statement. “As we were growing in students, faculty and staff from underrepresented communities, I felt the call strongly to accept this leadership role.”

Fung was born in Taiwan, and emigrated at age 13 to a small town in Pennsylvania. From there, she made her way to California, attending the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). 

Initially, she pursued a degree in microbiology but switched majors to English literature, and a minor in Asian American studies. “It was not a choice my family approved. They wanted me to go on to become an accountant, engineer, and become a medical doctor,” said Fung. 

In her senior year at UCLA, she fell in love with the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, an English author and poet of the 14th century, leading her to pursue a PhD in British Medieval Literature at University of California, Santa Barbara. 

“My interest in studying travel narratives in British medieval literature, especially in the context of theories of post-coloniality, races, gender and sexualities, grew out of my own immigrant experience that underscores the impacts of migration, immigration and displacement,” said Fung in her written statement.

Fung remained associate dean until 2019, overseeing the creation of the Honors College in 2018. 

Later, she served as interim dean during the pandemic. “When COVID hit, we were going through some really complicated times. I was called to serve then…it was sort of a situation where I felt I couldn’t say no, it was really the right call, because I really care for this community.” 

Speaking with the Foghorn, Fung responded to a number of concerns raised by students about the administration. These concerns initially came about during the May 2023 “Day of Refusal,” and many are still held today. 

Students claimed that the lack of need-based tuition for international students is a burden.  “Diversity is critical, especially from our international demographics,” Fung responded. “We want as many students to have access to USF education as possible. But through philanthropy we are trying to raise money, and we have increased scholarships as well.” 

In the Fall of 2023, the Change The World From Here Institute added the Community Leadership Program to their cabinet of scholarship programs. Students within the program are given a $5,000 scholarship, made possible by an outside donation from Christopher Leung and Priscilla Lee.  

Additionally, students brought up concerns regarding limited space for the Black Resource Center (BRC), which is currently deep inside Gleeson Library. On Feb. 22, the Black Student Union released a petition calling for a renovated BRC. “We are undergoing the institutional master planning design, where we are identifying spaces for our affinity groups for student needs. That includes the Black Resource Center,” said Fung. 

While Fung works to address the concerns of students, she carries the lesson she’s gained through her roles with her. “I am a homegrown person here at USF…I think what I learned through all these roles has made me more reflective and resilient.” 

Editor-in-Chief: Megan Robertson,  Chief Copy Editor: Sophia Siegel, Managing Editor: Jordan Premmer, News Editor: Niki Sedaghat

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