Southeast Asia and South Asia programs receive federal grants

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Syl Kacapyr

Two of Cornell’s long-established language and area studies programs – the South Asia Program (SAP) and Southeast Asia Program (SEAP) – have received highly competitive four-year grants from the U.S. Department of Education. They won renewed designation as National Resource Centers and were awarded Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships in recognition for their excellence in areas critical to the national interest.

“SEAP and SAP have contributed greatly to Cornell’s international achievements in the past half century and will continue to play an essential role in the endeavors of Global Cornell in the future,” said Fredrik Logevall, vice provost for international affairs and director of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies. “These prestigious grants will provide critical support for activities of the programs, and Asian studies more broadly, until 2018.”

SEAP was awarded $524,100 for 2014-15 or approximately $2,096,400 over the four years of the grant. This includes a National Resource Center Grant and a Foreign Language and Area Studies Grant that will fund seven graduate students each academic year, as well as three graduate and two undergraduate students for intensive language study each summer.

“This is an exciting moment. With all of SEAP’s new initiatives in the works, this funding from NRC couldn’t come at a better time,” said Kaja McGowan, professor of history of art and Asian studies and SEAP director.

SEAP will use the funds to broaden and strengthen Southeast Asian studies at Cornell by focusing on global and local collaboration. The program will build connections and programming on campus to improve access and diversity in area studies and study abroad, and will partner with community colleges and teacher-training programs to internationalize the educational pipeline. It also will develop and pilot faculty-led study abroad opportunities and project-oriented language courses to give more students exposure to Southeast Asia and foster global competency. Building study abroad programs will give SEAP faculty the chance to initiate more linkages and exchanges with scholars and institutions in Southeast Asia.

SEAP is also launching a multifaceted Myanmar Initiative. As one of only two U.S. universities where the Burmese language is taught at all levels, SEAP aims to take advantage of growing openness and political reforms in Myanmar. The Myanmar Initiative seeks to support and expand the number of Cornell faculty with research interests in Myanmar, increase and enhance the teaching of courses and outreach related to Burma/Myanmar, institutionalize and improve Burmese language instruction and support its expansion to other institutions, establish linkages with universities and organizations in Myanmar, and develop a study abroad program in Myanmar for undergraduates. The Burma/Myanmar Research Forum: Critical Scholarship and the Politics of Transition, to be held at Cornell Oct. 24-25, will inaugurate the initiative.

SAP was funded with its NRC consortium partner, Syracuse University.  The NRC consortium will receive more than $3 million over four years as a South Asia National Resource Center and Title VI (FLAS) Fellowship recipient for 2014-18. This includes $506,500 per year to the Cornell South Asia Program.

“We look forward to continuing our collaborations with Syracuse University’s South Asia Center as well as our regional partner community colleges and schools of education,” said Anne M. Blackburn, professor of Asian studies and SAP director. “Thanks to the FLAS awards, Cornell can continue to recruit competitive graduate students researching South Asia.”

The funds will be used to co-fund South Asian language instruction for undergraduate and graduate students across colleges and professional schools, support regular lecture series, conferences and workshops related to South Asia studies, and support the internationalization of curricula at partner institutions.

The awards include FLAS student fellowships to be awarded by SAP during the same four-year period. NRC funds help to support Urdu, Sinhala and Bengali language courses on Cornell’s campus. They also allow the South Asia Program to develop its Tamil Studies Initiative. Cornell and Syracuse have long-standing interests in the Tamil cultural and linguistic regions, and Cornell’s South Asia Program is a recognized center for Sri Lanka studies. Through the Tamil Studies Initiative, SAP and the Cornell-Syracuse National Resource Center aim to build a strong foundation for Tamil Studies on both campuses.

Cornell SAP also will use NRC support to extend its South Asia expertise to community college and education program partners, supporting the inclusion of new South Asia-related components in their curricula and providing travel opportunities to South Asian locations for their faculty and students. These projects will increase collaboration across campuses interested in the South Asian region, sharing Cornell’s financial and intellectual resources with partners in the central New York region.


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