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Calvin Gets $500,000 for Asian Studies
July 11, 2006

Four years ago when Calvin College received a large grant for its Asian Studies program, Dan Bays, director of the program, noted simply that "Ignorance of Asia is not an option for the 21st century."

Recent events in Asia, including the launching of missiles by North Korea and rumblings this week by Japan about striking North Korea pre-emptively, have done nothing to change Bays' opinion.

And he says Calvin will continue to equip its graduates with an understanding of Asia thanks to a significant new grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Calvin will receive $500,000 from the NEH, provided it raises an additional $1.5 million on its own. The money will go toward an Asian Studies endowment at Calvin that will sustain and expand the new, but growing, program at the college (some 500 students a year now are enrolled in Asian Studies at Calvin).

"The grant is a fantastic opportunity for a fantastic program," says Calvin history professor Daniel Bays, who heads up Asian Studies at Calvin after a long tenure at the University of Kansas. "The endowment will allow us to build on key accomplishments over the past eight years that have not only strengthened a major humanities program, but also created tremendous momentum in curricular development, faculty scholarships and exhange programs with China, Japan and Korea."

When fully funded the $2 million endowment for Asian Studies will fund a multitude of projects at Calvin, including workshops on Asia for West Michigan teachers, including faculty at local colleges; travel to Asia by Calvin faculty for conferences and short-term teaching; expanded programs to bring Asian scholars to West Michigan; development of more Calvin courses in Asian Studies and much more.

It was just four years ago that Calvin received $800,000 from the New York based Freeman Foundation, which funds Asian studies programs at a wide variety of prestigious institutions, including Harvard and Berkeley. In recent years Calvin has expanded its Asian Studies in numerous ways, including introducing a new Asian Studies major in 2004 (after having introduced an Asian Studies minor in 2001).

It also has increased programs in which visiting scholars come to the U.S. and Calvin scholars travel to Asia. It has added programs that allow students to travel between Asia and North America, including a semester-long program that takes Calvin students each fall to Beijing, a summer internship program in Asia and an effort that sees students from China's Peking University (that country's "Harvard") spend a full year studying philosophy at Calvin. The college also has greatly expanded its collection of Asian books and journals.

Calvin's growing interest in Asia reflects the growing place of Asia in the worldwide church as well as on the world stage says Bays (Calvin is the only evangelical Christian college or university that has an Asian Studies Program).

"The body of Christ worldwide is Asian, it's African, and it's Latin American more than it is European and North American in terms of where the really dynamic growth is happening," Bays notes. "And of course, there are some practical things such as China becoming a powerhouse economically and politically around the world. It's not an option to ignore Asia. A lot of our students are instinctively aware of that."