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By Stephen Collins '74
Among American colleges offering academic programs focused on East Asia, Colby got one of the earliest starts, adding East Asian studies to the catalogue in the 1960s. Since then the importance of the cultures and economies of East Asian countries has risen steadily in the consciousness of the Western world, and now Colby has received a major grant to expand and further develop its pioneering program.
Over the next four years the College will receive $728,044 from The Freeman Foundation to:
support a new faculty position in economics with a link to East Asian studies
enhance the presence of East Asia throughout the curriculum
expand internships for students in East Asian countries
bring additional East Asian cultural programming to the campus.
Those initiatives will help make a strong East Asian studies program even stronger. "It's very exciting," said program chair Tamae Prindle, the Oak Professor of East Asian Language and Literature (Japanese).
In the last two or three years the College bolstered its commitment to the interdisciplinary program by adding tenure-track positions in Japanese and Chinese languages. Now the grant will allow Colby to hire an economics professor who specializes in Asian Pacific Rim countries.
The grant, which includes funding for cultural programming, had an almost immediate visible impact on campus as the primary funding source for a performance by Burlington Taiko on February 16. Taiko, an ancient Japanese tradition, incorporates thunderous drums, colorful pageantry and ritualistic choreography influenced heavily by martial arts, and the performance drew a huge audience from Colby and the surrounding area.
The grant also provides scholarships and funding for student internships in East Asia, and the first round is to be awarded this year. "The students are getting itchy," Prindle said in early March; "they want to see the application forms." Besides providing additional means for students to take advantage of educational opportunities in East Asia, those funds will help Colby develop research-based projects and internship opportunities, including summer positions, for students working in East Asia. In part that will be accomplished by capitalizing on the College's links with alumni and parents in a wide range of leadership positions in Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
This generous gift will help Colby to create a more visible, compelling and contemporary program that will engage more students in the study of East Asia, both on campus as well as in regions of the Pacific Rim, said President William Adams. Adams noted that the driving principles of the College's strategic planning include a continued a strong commitment to international education as a core element of liberal learning and additional emphasis on project-based study, on campus and abroad. "This grant will aid both initiatives and should call attention to our long and distinguished commitment to East Asian studies," he said.
The Freeman Foundation was established in Vermont in 1978 by Houghton Freeman, Mansfield Freeman and other members of the Freeman family. The foundation's main objectives include strengthening the bonds of friendship between the United States and the countries of the Far East. Through education and educational institutes, the foundation hopes to develop a greater appreciation in the United States of East Asian cultures, histories and economies as well as a better understanding among the peoples of East Asia of the American people, their institutions and purposes.
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