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Asian studies will be strengthened at Old Dominion in the coming years, thanks to a $140,000 U.S. Department of Education Title VI-A Grant received this year by the College of Arts and Letters. The university currently offers a minor in the field, and Jie Chen, director of the Institute of Asian Studies, hopes to have a major in place by 2002.

Old Dominion kicked in about $158,000 in matching funds to fulfill grant requirements. Chen noted that this money primarily was in-kind, particularly in faculty release time for a series of workshops and a faculty development trip to Southeast Asia, and in the form of graduate assistance for administration of activities in the project.

The grant proposal, co-authored by Chen and Robert Holden, associate professor of history, was based on the participation of 12 faculty members. In all, about 25 faculty have taken part in the program by either attending a workshop and/or going on the trip.

The positive response from faculty across a variety of disciplines and colleges was encouraging to Chen. "Faculty members on this campus lack expertise in Southeast Asia," Chen said. "Expertise in Eastern Asia is very strong, but to establish an Asian studies major on this campus, we need to address some weaknesses."

The education process began with four workshops, conducted during the spring semester, that covered Southeast Asian geography, history, culture, economics, business, politics and international relations. Then, in early May, 11 faculty members embarked on a two-week trip to Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam for part two of the project.

"The trip was intended to give faculty an opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge in order for them to develop new courses about Southeast Asia," Chen said.

Joining Chen were Janet Bing (English), Christine Drake (political science and geography), Fran Hassencahl (communication and theatre arts), Earl Honeycutt (marketing), Mieko Ishibashi (foreign languages and literatures), Qiu Jin (history), Elizabeth Monk-Turner (sociology and criminal justice ), David Putney (philosophy and religious studies), Charlie Turner (economics) and Alok Verma (engineering technology).

The faculty met on campus June 15 to review what they learned from the trip and share ways they plan to use their new knowledge in the classroom.

This article was posted on: July 18, 2001

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