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January 25, 2002

Calvin gets $800,000 for Asian Studies
 
Professor Daniel Bays

An $800,000 grant to Calvin College will help expand the school's rapidly growing Asian studies efforts.

The grant was given to Calvin from the New York based Freeman Foundation, which funds Asian studies programs at a wide variety of prestigious institutions, including Harvard and Berkeley. The money will have a significant impact on a program at Calvin that is still in its infancy.

Says Calvin president Gaylen Byker: "Over the past five years we have invested considerable college resources and energy into developing our Asian studies program. This includes an annual exchange program with Xiamen University, a semester-long study program in Beijing, the recruitment of a distinguished scholar in history professor Daniel Bays (above) and four years of both Japanese and Chinese language instruction. This new grant will help us take the next steps in expanding even further."

Bays, who came to Calvin from the University of Kansas as one of the country's top Asian scholars, is even more plainspoken about the significance of the grant.

"Ignorance of Asia," he says, "is not an option for the 21st century."

That's why one of the goals for the grant money is to expand opportunities for Calvin students to have hands-on learning opportunities, both in Asia and in West Michigan. Calvin plans to establish several internships in China through its semester-long program in Beijing. The school already has good contacts in China with two American news bureaus, the American embassy and several companies, all of which are potential hosts for interns. Calvin also plans to fund student research in West Michigan and will use some of the grant money to pay stipends to students to do special programs on Asia in local primary and secondary schools.

Those efforts will receive a significant boost as Calvin expands its materials on Asia. It plans to buy about 300 books for the Hekman Library in areas where there are currently gaps, such as Asian business and economics as well as Asian sociology. It also will buy Asian journals and back issues of those journals, microfilm and microfiche collections and videos.

Calvin also plans to hire a new professor in philosophy or another department with expertise in Asian studies. This would become the fourth Calvin faculty member with Asian specialty, joining history professor Daniel Bays, religion and theology professor Chares Farhadian and language professor Lawrence Herzberg.

The hiring of a philosopher with Asian expertise will build on recent efforts by the Calvin philosophy department to establish partnerships with Xiamen University. Each May two professors from Calvin go to Xiamen to teach a seminar in western philosophy; each January a Chinese colleague from Xiamen comes to Calvin to team-teach a course. Students from Xiamen also have come to Calvin for informal study. The Xiamen exchange has been so successful that in the fall of 2001 a similar program was begun with Handong University in South Korea. The recent $800,000 grant will fund the continuation of such exchanges.

Calvin approved an Asian Studies minor in 2001. Although available for only a few months now the minor already has produced two graduates and six students who currently are enrolled. That minor will lay the foundation for a new Asian Studies major. Already brainstorming has begun on what would constitute such a major with new courses possible on such topics as Asian Economic Development, Asian Religions and Asian Literature. Already annual enrollment in Asia related courses totals almost 400.

Bays is excited about the grant and what it will mean to Calvin's Asian Studies efforts.

"I started my involvement in Asia in the 60s," he says, "through undergrad courses. That turned into a fulfilling lifetime career that I've never regretted. Now it's exciting to think about Calvin students getting involved in Asia, either in the classroom or actually living there. I know that some of them will get hooked, even as I did, and develop career interests related to Asia . . . perhaps in teaching, perhaps in other areas such as business or law."

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Contact Phil de Haan
616-957-6475 (v)
616-957-7069 (f)
dehp@calvin.edu