Grant funds Asian studies

JP Leider

A new grant from the U.S. Department of Education will bring the study of South Asia into the limelight alongside already prominent East Asian studies.

The four-year grant will provide about $2 million to fund the new Consortium for the Study of the Asias and complementary programs. In addition, the Institute of Global Studies, which will house the consortium, received comparable, renewed funding for the International and European National Resource Centers.

The University has an emphasis on Chinese and Japanese studies, but now will incorporate the study of areas such as India and Arabic languages.

Joseph Allen, chairman of the department of Asian languages and literature, said faculty members of East Asian and South Asian expertise played major roles in the development of the grant proposal.

Allen said the consortium will allow the University to bring together areas of the University studying Asia.

The Asian languages and literature department has been moving in an interdisciplinary direction in the past few years, Allen said, so the new grant will complement the department’s direction.

Allen said the study of language is imperative to the study of the region itself.

“This will be our most important asset in building

respect and understanding with the rest of the world,” he said.

Matthew Nelson, a senior studying Japanese, said he hopes the creation of the consortium will offer a central location for students interested in Asian studies.

Nelson said language plays an important role in understanding culture.

“To really understand domestic and social philosophies, you have to read their writings in the language,” he said.

The recent round of grant awards also will enable the Institute of Global Studies to place more priority on curriculum development for cultural aspects of Asia, as well as native languages.

Evelyn Davidheiser, director of the Institute for Global Studies, said grants for resource centers enable universities to build expertise in other countries and cultures.

While no new majors will be offered with the new money, new courses offered because of the grants, such as film and literature courses, are hoped to be attractive to students, she said.

Ted Farmer, chairman of the International Studies

National Resource Center,

said the University used to be very strong in South Asian studies.

“Back in the late ’60s and ’70s, we had a National Resource Center in South Asia,” he said. “But over the years the faculty broke up, and

we lost federal funding. Over the years, we’ve lost most of the language instruction – we’re now rebuilding in that area.”

Farmer said the new grant is promising for the University.

“Most major research universities have one or more

of these centers; the ‘U’ has had a minimal number: We’ve just moved from two to three,” he said. “We’re not by any means at the forefront of this kind of thing, but we’re getting better.

“This is a sign of good things happening at the University.”