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Asian studies wins $1.75 million grant

Binghamton University has been awarded $1.75 million from the Vermont-based Freeman Foundation that will allow a significant expansion of the Asian and Asian American Studies Program. The grant is believed to be the largest ever received by the humanities at the University.

“This award symbolizes the rewards reaped by the campus when our efforts cross the disciplines and professions,” said Mary Ann Swain, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “The intellectual and creative activity to be fostered by this grant enriches all of our academic programs and the campus environment in general.”

The four-year project, headed by John Chaffee, professor of history and director of the Asian and Asian American Studies program, involves a four-point plan to enhance the existing program by:

The grant will pay for three of the four new faculty positions for threes years at which time the University must pick up the complete tab, along with the cost of a fourth position.

The Asian and Asian American Studies Program dates to 1993 when the former East Asian Studies program was expanded.

The Freeman-funded project will mean the establishment of a new Asian and Asian American studies major and will pave the way for the creation of a full complement of courses covering the regions and cultures of Asia, East Asian languages, and Asians in the Americas, Chaffee said.
“This is a giant leap for our program,” Chaffee said. “Many schools offer a major in Asian studies, and some offer separate majors in Asian studies and Asian American studies. But a major in Asian and Asian American studies is quite unusual and intellectually quite sound.”

The new major, which is in keeping with the University’s emphasis on internationalization, has also been a key goal of the Asian Student Union and Harpur College of Arts and Sciences faculty, he said. It can also be expected to enhance such University initiatives as Languages Across the Curriculum and Global Studies.

“We have Asian representation of more than 20 percent in our student body, but we don’t expect this to be a program of interest only to Asian students. We’re going to be building bridges that enhance the internationalization of our campus and the learning experience available to all students,” Chaffee said.

The project’s cross-disciplinary and inclusive emphasis is evident in the first-year decision to seek a visiting professor of environmental studies to coincide with the focus of the University’s Global Studies program, Chaffee noted.

“Our faculty grants for curriculum development will be open to any University faculty member who would like to develop a course whether it is specifically on Asia or Asian Americans or comparatively treats them in a very serious way.”

The first-year competition for such grants will be announced in the spring, Chaffee said.

He said the new philosophy position will be assigned to the Philosophy Department and the Asian cinema/literature position will be assigned to the Department of Comparative Literature. The departmental affiliation of the remaining two faculty hires has yet to be decided, Chaffee said.

The Freeman Foundation is based in Vermont. It was established in 1992 and is dedicated to strengthening bonds of friendship between the United States and countries of the Far East, primarily through education and educational institutes. Its funded projects are meant to contribute to and enhance “a vibrant, international, free enterprise system,” according to Foundation literature.