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U.Va. Launches New Asia Institute

December 14, 2009 — The University of Virginia has launched its Asia Institute, which unites the activities of the Tibet, East and South Asia Centers and the Asian-Pacific-American Studies program.

Speaking at a reception Friday at Minor Hall, Arts & Sciences Dean Meredith Woo said, "One of the most significant investments the dean's office has made during this time of profound fiscal constraint is to build up our faculty, programming and outreach in East Asia and South Asia.

"The institute sets a brilliant stage for the future for Asian Studies in the College and at the University more broadly," said Woo, who recently returned from a trip to China, where she and U.Va. President John T. Casteen III opened an Arts & Sciences office at Peking University.

The institute's aim is to promote the study of Asia by facilitating the teaching and research of U.Va. faculty members from across Grounds. The institute's mission statement said the grouping is "inspired by Jefferson's ideal of global knowledge and citizenship and bringing together students, scholars and experts from government, industry and the public."

Richard Cohen, the institute's managing director, said there are persuasive reasons to create the institute as an umbrella organization in support of existing programs.

"One of the most important aspects of U.Va's current push to increase the internationalization of its faculty and programs is to take stock of what already exists in this area, as well as to find ways to better facilitate awareness and cooperation between University units when it comes to their international interests," he said.

U.Va. has grown its faculty and programmatic expertise in Asian studies over several decades, in areas including language, humanities and social sciences. Just this fall, the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian and Languages and Cultures débuted a course in the rarely taught Bengali language.

The Asia Institute is housed in Minor Hall. A prominent part of the institute is the Tibet Center, which was formally launched early this year and is becoming known for its interdisciplinary academic programs, digital innovation and community service. The East Asian and South Asian centers both provide lecture series, community outreach, film collections and support for faculty and students, programs that have filtered out to the University. The Asian Pacific Program includes a minor that was established in 2004 and offers courses that familiarize students with the histories of diasporic and immigrant populations from East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.

─ By Jane Kelly

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