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U’s Asia Center is Now a National Resource Center

– by Robert D. Newman, Dean of the College of Humanities and Associate Vice President for Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Utah

Until 1800, China and India constituted half the world’s economy. Today, they seem ready to reclaim that status. Recently, China surpassed Japan as the world’s second largest economy and many believe it is on the verge of surpassing the U. S. for the top spot. India’s power, both economic and nuclear, is expanding at phenomenal rates while its discomforting neighbor Pakistan, also possessing nuclear capability, is often considered the world’s most dangerous country. North and South Korea seem perpetually on the brink of all-out war. Boundary conflicts persist throughout Asia while cultural transformations sharply focus the shifting dynamic between the influence of and resistance to the west.

The victim of colonization and now postcolonial rival, ally and threat, economic powerhouse and environmental disaster, locus of astounding modernization amid crushing poverty and disease, cradle of philosophy and of sectarian violence, Asia’s contradictions are the stuff of magnificent potential and potential peril. For any university which takes as its mission the education of global citizens, it is an essential and rewarding area of study, a fertile and necessary complex of subjects that yield a better understanding of where we have been and where we are going.

The College of Humanities of the University of Utah is therefore delighted that our relatively newly minted Asia Center has received a prestigious Title VI grant from the Department of Education (DOE) that elevates us to the status of a National Resource Center, putting us in an elite group of nationally and internationally recognized centers for foreign language and area studies. The grant, totaling about $4.5 million over four years, resulted from a collaborative effort between the U’s Asia Center and BYU’s  Asian Studies Program. Together we created the Intermountain Consortium for Asian and Pacific Studies (IMCAPS) in order to apply for Title VI National Resource Center status. IMCAPS established an unprecedented basis for joint scholarly and pedagogical projects between the U and the Y that include collaborative research, expanded curricular offerings, and study abroad and internship opportunities for students.

IMCAPS brings together over 155 faculty from our two universities who teach and do research on Asia. Between the U and the Y, we offer over 600 courses on Asia spread across 27 different departments. These offerings include disciplines from the humanities, social sciences, and arts to the sciences and professional schools and represent an extraordinary opportunity for interdisciplinary study that will forge future directions for scholarly significance. Our goal is nothing short of becoming a key center and national resource for information about and research on Asia. Beyond serving our faculty and students, we expect to be a crucial resource as well for government agencies, NGOs, and corporations.

Half of the DOE award will be allocated to Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships for graduate and undergraduate students at the U and the Y. These will allow us to promote our BA, MA and PhD programs nationally and to compete for the best students from across the country. Our two campuses will offer courses in Hindi-Urdu, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Pashto, Thai, Vietnamese and Indonesian in addition to historical and cultural study of all regions of Asia. The grant will fund ten national and international conferences on a wide variety of topics and regions of Asia as well as a lecture and performance series, and a series of K-12 outreach projects to enhance curricula on Asia in our public schools. In addition, the burgeoning Global Health Alliance programs in India and China initiated by the U’s Asia Center will receive enhanced support.

We are excited about this achievement and about the numerous possibilities it brings for merging theory and practice in order to effect positive change. In his 1947 welcome address for the first Asian Relations Conference, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlai Nehru said, “A change is coming over the scene now and Asia is again finding herself. We live in a tremendous age of transition and already the next stage takes shape when Asia takes her rightful place with other continents.” Our new National Resource Center will help shape understanding regarding the prominence of Asia in our own tremendous age of transition.

More about the Asia Center can be found at: http://www.hum.utah.edu/asian/

“Rival schools join hands to win major Asia grant”, by Brian Maffly, Salt Lake Tribune 9/5/2010:  http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/50194638-78/asia-center-studies-byu.html.csp