Asian Studies Program receives $141,655 grant from U.S. Department of Education

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October 8, 2009

In the Chinese calendar, 2009 is the Year of the Ox. By tradition, oxen are born leaders, inspiring confidence in everyone with whom they come in contact.

A recent $141,655 grant from the Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program of the U.S. Department of Education to the College of Saint Benedict, St. Joseph, will assure that student leaders from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University meet a national need for developing intercultural and global leadership skills in Asia, especially China, Japan and India.

The grant, which runs through July 31, 2011, will support an undergraduate international studies and foreign language project entitled, “Building Bridges to the Asian Century: Institutionalizing Our Asian Studies Major.”   The grant’s director is P. Richard Bohr, professor of history and director of Asian Studies at CSB and SJU; Rachel Sherman, coordinator of Asian Studies at CSB and SJU, manages the project day-to-day.

The grant will enable the Asian Studies Program to develop a strategic plan to support the creation of a proposal for a standard interdisciplinary Asian Studies major that includes curricular, co-curricular and advanced Asian language components. The goals of the grant are to:

• Design introductory symposium, capstone and other new Asian Studies courses;

• Develop advanced courses in Chinese and Japanese languages and literature and instruction in South Asian language;

• Enhance student research, service learning, internship, teaching and other experiential opportunities in and with Asia;

• Broaden the innovative annual Summer Science Research Exchange program with Southwest University in Beibei, China, to include other disciplines in student-faculty collaboration projects, and to expand them to Japan and India;

• And facilitate faculty study tours to Asia to augment curricular and experiential interchange as well as student research and faculty exchange with CSB’s and SJU’s Asian partners at Southwest University; Bunkyo Gakuin University in Tokyo; and the new study abroad site at St. Xavier’s University in Kolkata, India.

“The Title VI grant is national recognition that the Asian Studies Program at CSB and SJU has developed the necessary infrastructure to transform its individualized Asian Studies major into a stand-alone one,” Bohr said. “And, by helping us enhance the program’s curricular and career-building offerings among an increasing number of interdisciplinary stakeholders here and in Asia, the grant will help our students, faculty and staff take the next ‘great leap’ in preparing our graduates personally and professionally for the challenges of the ‘Asian Century.’

“This grant acknowledges that America’s competitiveness in this fast-globalizing world depends upon its ability to relate to Asian partners across a broad spectrum of international concerns and that CSB and SJU will play an important role in that challenge,” Bohr said.

Asian studies has a long history at CSB and SJU, dating back to 1925, when monks from Saint John’s Abbey helped to establish the Catholic University of Peking (known in Chinese as Furen). Five years later, six sisters from Saint Benedict’s Monastery arrived to set up a women’s college at Furen. In 2010, CSB and SJU will celebrate their 25th anniversary of sending students to study at Southwest University in Beibei.

The 2008-09 school year marked the 15th anniversary of the Asian Studies Program at CSB and SJU. The Asian Studies curriculum includes 26 courses in art history, economics, history, language (Chinese and Japanese), literature, management, philosophy, political science, environmental studies and theology in East, South Asian and Islamic lands.