Bates secures $400,000 Asian studies grant

Bates College has won a $400,000 grant from the Freeman Foundation to expand and enrich its Asian studies program, announced Jill N. Reich, dean of the faculty and vice president for academic affairs. The four-year grant will fund faculty research, the creation of new courses, travel for faculty and students, and the acquisition of library and technology resources.

The grant is Bates’ first from the New York-based foundation, founded in 1992 to increase, strengthen and popularize teaching about Asia at U.S. colleges and universities.

“This award recognizes the extraordinary work of the faculty in all areas of the program in Asian studies and will allow the College to better support their research and teaching activities. As a result, our students will gain a much deeper understanding of and interest in the languages, cultures and histories of East Asia,” Reich said.

Like other colleges, Bates’ first Asian studies course offerings focused narrowly on language study. Today, Bates students can major in Japanese or Chinese languages, as well as Asian studies, an interdisciplinary program featuring 13 Asian specialists from the fields of Chinese, Japanese, anthropology, economics, history and religion. Bates offers more than 70 courses on Asia; an additional 18 include a significant Asia component.

The success of the Asian studies program at Bates, said Reich, is impressive in light of the relative lack of relevant materials on campus, such as slides for art courses or library resources. “Our limited library and audio-visual resources for newly developed Asian art courses means that many faculty must routinely travel to out-of-state libraries,” she said.

An example of a project poised for potential Freeman funding is a new course being developed by Margaret Maurer-Fazio of economics and Sharon Kinsman of biology. They hope to develop an off-campus course that features field investigation of projects to protect, reclaim and establish forests on arid lands in northwestern China. Another course proposal would take students abroad to examine how people relate to nature in Japan’s cities and villages.

Bates offers extensive study-abroad opportunities to its approximately 1,700 students, ranking fourth in the nation in that regard with 65 percent of the student body pursuing international study during their time at Bates. Numerous Bates programs offer Asian travel, and the college is one of just 16 members of the select Associated Kyoto Program, which sponsors yearlong study at Japan’s Doshida University. “Although Bates’ formal Asian studies program is relatively new, having been founded in 1997, a significant external confirmation of its excellence is the invitation to membership in the Associated Kyoto Program,” Reich said.

The Freeman grant is the second significant gift secured for the Asian studies program at Bates. The college recently won a highly competitive grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to establish the Luce Junior Professor of Asian Studies.

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