Carolina wins $900,000 grant to advance the study of Southeast Asia

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has won a $900,000 grant from the Henri Luce Foundation through its Luce Initiative on Southeast Asia, for the “Bringing Southeast Asia Home” project.

Through coordinated efforts by the Carolina Asia Centerthis multi-year grant expand UNC-Chapel Hill’s work on Southeast Asia and strengthen the University’s ability to serve as a hub for Asian studies in the Southeast region of the United States

“Southeast Asian Studies can and should play an important role in bringing lasting change to our public university, especially as it serves a diverse and changing southern United States,” said Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz in a letter of support for the grant.

The University chose to pursue this award to build on existing strengths and fulfill its commitment to the study of Asia. the UNC-Chapel Hill strategic plan, Carolina Next: Innovations for the public good, identifies Asia as a strategic priority for the institution.

“We are grateful to the Luce Foundation for recognizing Carolina’s potential for excellence in the study of Southeast Asia,” said Barbara Stephenson, vice provost for global affairs and global director. “This donation will help Carolina achieve its goal, articulated in Carolina Next, of developing an Asia University Strategy and becoming a pan-Asian powerhouse.”

Carolina has a history of leadership in the study of Asia. The Carolina Asia Center, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, is the only U.S. Department of Education Title VI National Resource Center on Asia in the southeastern United States. UNC-Chapel Hill is also the only university in North Carolina to offer language courses for Vietnamese, the sixth most spoken language in the state.

Although the “Bringing Southeast Asia Home” project is launched at UNC-Chapel Hill, its effects will reach students and faculty throughout the UNC system. “This will enhance educational opportunities statewide and position the University at the forefront of research and teaching on this region,” said Becky Butler, adjunct assistant professor of linguistics and co-author of the proposal. grant.

Carolina will double Vietnamese language classes, which were reintroduced with support from the Office of the Vice-Rector for Global Affairs (OVPGA), in fall 2020 in response to growth student request. Thanks to UNC system language swap, students from any school in the system will be able to take credit courses at their home institution. Throughout North Carolina, heritage and non-heritage students will have greater access to a dynamic region of the world in tandem with the state’s diverse population.

“Growing up, I spoke little Vietnamese and never knew how to read or write the language of my parents and grandparents,” said Jennifer Tran, 24, a student at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media. “I also grew up in a predominantly white community, so I don’t know much about my culture outside of my own family traditions that were imported from Vietnam. I continued to deepen my knowledge of my culture by studying my native language, and I am very happy that UNC has the opportunity to continue to develop the program for future students.

Baiquni, an Indonesian PhD student, is excited about what the grant will mean for expanding the study of Southeast Asia at Carolina.

“As a student from Southeast Asia and Southeast Asia, I know that the region has much to offer to the global discussion on various fields of study, social sciences and the environment to various issues in the humanities,” he said. “I think this grant will certainly help many other Southeast Asian and Southeast Asian scholars like me to contribute to Carolina’s understanding of the world today.”

Christian Lentz, associate professor of geography and principal investigator for the grant proposal, has long advocated for the expansion of Southeast Asian studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, and in 2019 he supported a petition student for Carolina to add Southeast Asian languages ​​to the curriculum. .

“The Office of the Vice Provost for Global Affairs has partnered with the Carolina Asia Center and faculty at the university to intentionally invest in the continuation of the Luce Grant,” Lentz said. “I am delighted to see that our efforts are finally paying off. »

Over the past few years, the OVPGA has invested unrestricted funds from the Chancellor’s Global Education Fund that demonstrate the University’s commitment to Southeast Asian Studies in order to position the University’s proposition for success. These investments supported the revival and continuation of Vietnamese language teaching and the hiring of a post-doctoral fellow at the Carolina Asia Center to expand programming in Southeast Asia and develop a successful proposal. The OVPGA will also support a faculty residence at longtime Carolina University strategic partner institution in Southeast Asia, National University of Singapore, in 2022-23.

“I’m thrilled that the support from my office helped bring this grant home,” Stephenson said. “Recognizing the outstanding strengths of area studies and language at Carolina, I am committed to fundraising and providing support for our area studies centers – a foundation of UNC’s claim to national pre-eminence in preparing of the next generation of global leaders.”

Lentz submitted the grant with an interdisciplinary team, including Butler, Angel Hsu (Department of Public Policy), and Noah Kittner (Gillings School of Global Public Health).

The grant will also provide targeted support to students with undergraduate summer research internships, graduate scholarships for thesis completion, and a student working group.

Grant funds will also provide meaningful opportunities for faculty. The University will bring distinguished postdocs to campus to work on Southeast Asian topics and will fund UNC-Chapel Hill faculty members who do not have a background in Asian studies. Southeast Asia to explore the region and its connections to their research.

“UNC-Chapel Hill faculty are already conducting cutting-edge research in Southeast Asia in areas such as demography, geography, environmental science, public health, and anthropology,” said said Kevin Fogg, associate director of the Carolina Asia Center. “But Southeast Asia’s footprint in the program is small, and the many scholars working in the region have had limited opportunities to collaborate across disciplines or develop this field.”

To expand Southeast Asian Studies across the University, UNC-Chapel Hill will also launch an interdisciplinary minor in Southeast Asian Studies, the first of its kind in the Southeastern United States. United.

“This investment from the Luce Foundation will help us meet student demand for cultural courses and language instruction, while creating a new collaboration to connect the faculty’s global expertise with Asian programming and courses. growing Americans at UNC,” said Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld, senior associate. Dean for Social Sciences and Global Programs.

The expansion of Southeast Asian Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill will increase the visibility of Asian diaspora populations in the state and region. “In their comments, the Luce Foundation reviewers found Carolina’s proposal particularly innovative in the way it links the study of Southeast Asia and engagement with communities in the South Asian diaspora. Southeast in the southeastern United States,” Butler said. Carolina has specifically sought funds for community engagement and will build on the recent creation of the Asian American University Center.

In addition, the grant will support continued collaborations with minority-serving institutions in the UNC system and historically black colleges and universities.

The Henry Luce Foundation seeks to enrich public discourse by promoting innovative scholarship, training new leaders, and fostering international understanding. Established in 1936 by Henry R. Luce, co-founder and editor of Time, Inc., The Luce Foundation pursues its mission through grantmaking and leadership programs in the fields of Asia, higher education , religion and theology, art , and public policy.

“Bringing Southeast Asia Home” initiatives will begin in the fall of 2022. For more information about the project, contact Kevin Foggassociate director of the Carolina Asia Center.