Springfield, Ohio - Already called the "jewel in Wittenberg's crown" by independent reviewers affiliated with Yale University and Colorado College, Wittenberg's East Asian Studies (EAS) program has received more good news in the form of a $1.9 million grant from the Freeman Foundation. The foundation is committed to increasing, strengthening and popularizing the teaching of Asia in college and university classrooms.
The grant, the largest single foundation grant ever received by a Wittenberg program or department, totals $1,958,723 and will be distributed over the next four years.
"Our program is already well established, but this grant and the key initiatives it will support will dramatically broaden the scope and reach of Asian studies, both at Wittenberg and beyond the campus," said Linda Lewis, director of the interdisciplinary program, anthropologist and an associate professor of sociology at Wittenberg.
With the grant, the EAS program aims to ensure that all students, regardless of their course of study, have an encounter with Asia as part of their undergraduate experience. This involves expanding the curriculum across additional disciplines.
"For our program to grow, it is imperative that we provide opportunities for faculty and administrators with no formal background in Asian studies to add an Asian dimension to their instructional, research and/or administrative activities and to familiarize themselves with East Asia," Lewis said.
"East Asia continues to have a growing importance in the world," Lewis added. The United States has had long-standing trade ties with this part of the world as well as a lengthy history, according to Lewis.
"Japan has been one of the major world powers during the last half of the century, and China, which has the largest population in the world, will become even more important economically in the future," she explained. Then there are the developing economies of Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Korea, Lewis added.
The Freeman grant will also provide for the establishment of an innovative mentoring program, the Wittenberg East Asian Studies Teaching Fellows Program, to develop future college professors.
"There is a growing, critical need for more Asian studies professors at liberal arts colleges," Lewis said. "We believe [this mentoring program] can serve as a model for recruiting and training more undergraduate Asian Studies teachers."
In addition, the grant will increase opportunities for scholarly work in Asia for both faculty and students, assist in recruitment efforts of high school students interested in pursuing Asian studies, create new opportunities for student travel abroad and promote teaching and learning about Asia, both in the local community and at other colleges. The EAS program also looks to support a major Asian artistic or cultural event in the Wittenberg Series.
"It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of East Asian Studies at Wittenberg," Lewis said.
"It is the largest interdepartmental program in the college, involves more faculty than any other such program, reaches the largest number of students among such programs (surpassing many academic departments), and, most importantly, addresses a critical need for understanding about East Asia," Lewis said.
A pioneer in East Asian Studies when founded in 1970, Wittenberg's EAS program now stands as one of the preeminent academic programs in the nation.
"No other peer school can offer such a distinguished curriculum, covering language, religion, classical civilization, philosophy, history and culture of all the major East Asian civilizations - China, Japan and to some extent Korea," noted Timothy Cheek, professor of history at Colorado College, and James Scott, president emeritus of the Association for Asian Studies and a professor of political science at Yale University.
Scott and Cheek visited the campus in the fall of 1999 at the invitation of the EAS faculty to provide an external assessment of the program, its strengths and what it needs to do in the future. Both concluded that undergraduates would be hard pressed to find any other small liberal arts school providing such an extended and deep encounter with non-Western civilizations.
Scott and Cheek also praised the program's leadership, calling the dedication of those who built the program rare. The program has "a faculty abreast of their fields and attentive to how they might convey their knowledge most effectively to undergraduates," they said.
More than 400 students have graduated with a degree in East Asian Studies since the program began, and most are either employed or attending graduate school immediately upon graduation, thanks in part to the vast network of contacts and connections established by the program's faculty members.
Wittenberg graduates are currently employed with the Foreign Service in the U.S. Department of State, Honda Motor Co., The Nippon Foundation, The Washington Post, Walt Disney Motion Pictures, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Library of Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency and Stanford University, among other locations.
For more information on the EAS program, log on to Wittenberg's Web site at www4.wittenberg.edu/academics/east or call Linda Lewis at (937) 327-7055.
Send a Message
• Book-Delivering Prof Named Ohio Professor of the Year
• Senior Class Selects Livestrong President & CEO Doug Ulman As 2011 Commencement Speaker
•Communication Program Honored Nationally With Top Award
• Wittenberg University Art Students Finalists For Scholarship Award