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Documents from Upenn during the 18th century.

Professor Modi has arrived on campus.

For this semester only, Kalpen Modi - more popularly known as Kal Penn - is an adjunct professor in the Asian American Studies Department, teaching ASAM 109: Asian Americans in the Media.

For Modi, teaching has always been of interest.

Over the last three years Modi has guest-lectured across the country on topics ranging from media conglomeration to race and gender identity.

"What I really found most interesting was the ability to take the experiences that I had as an actor and find how they were socially relevant," Modi said.

Modi said his interest in social issues led him to start doing research of his own on the side.

When it came to deciding where to teach his research, he said he wanted to find a place that had one of the most cutting-edge ASAM programs.

After giving a guest lecture at Penn last November, he was convinced this was the place for him.

"The resources here are some of the best in the world," said Modi.

"It's pretty rare to find such talented researchers teaching classes on subjects I certainly never had in high school or as an undergrad," he added.

Modi hopes his class gives students a deeper understanding of media imagery and the history behind it.

"I would love for them to independently think about imagery beyond the concept of race - to be able to look at and deconstruct certain images that we're taught to think of in a certain context and understand why they're so significant," he said.

"We all watch movies," he added, "and there's a significance to those movies beyond entertainment that I hope the students are able to recognize after this class."

While many professors elect to assign textbooks they have written, Modi has chosen to make use of some of the films in which he has starred, including The Namesake and Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.

And just like any other course, there will be the usual articles and books to read, along with a research-paper component.

The unique part of the course lies in the access students will have to some noted speakers.

"The students will have access to a lot of materials and guest speakers that I don't think they would have in a traditional academic setting," Modi said.

Speakers will include actress and comedienne Margaret Cho, studio executives and John Hurwitz, a Penn alum and one of the writers of Harold and Kumar.

"We tend to think of a movie like that in the context of which they're marketing it, but a lot of times what they signify in an academic analysis is much different," Modi said.

"[Last name] will be able to speak about the dichotomy of those two and how you can desconstruct an image like that."

And Penn students who aren't in Modi's class will still have a chance to see some of the speakers.

"We wanted to make sure this was an opportunity a lot of people could take advantage of," said Modi.

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