The Tiger in the Academy

Asian Americans populate America's elite colleges more than ever—and campus ministries even more than that.

Tonight, three of the largest Christian fellowships at the University of California, Berkeley, have arrived at First Presbyterian for a joint meeting. Hundreds of students, dressed in running shoes, jeans, and sweatshirts, spill into the sanctuary. A band warms up while students slap hands and hug. InterVarsity Christian Fellowship has invited Campus Crusade for Christ and Asian American Christian Fellowship to hear a special speaker.

Excitement like this would characterize a large Christian gathering at Berkeley during any era. One fact, however, would certainly startle earlier generations. About 98 percent of this gathering is Asian American.

At Berkeley, California's premier public university, "evangelical Christian" and "Asian American" are almost interchangeable descriptions. Three trends come together. One is California's demographics: It is 11 percent Asian compared to 4 percent for the nation as a whole. Two is academic prestige: As the oldest and most selective campus of the University of California, Berkeley has an undergraduate population that is 42 percent Asian. (As a general rule, the more selective the school, the higher the percentage of Asian students.) Three is a national fact: Asian students are more likely to show Christian commitment than other ethnic groups, including whites.

Harvard is 17 percent Asian American; mit, 28 percent; Stanford, 24 percent; Princeton and Yale, 13 percent. At each of these schools, Asian students account for an even larger share of the Christian community. Often they meet in ethnically based fellowships, and these may be the schools' largest Christian ministries.

As a group they are hard-working—driven, some say—and morally conservative. Many come from ethnic churches—Chinese, ...

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