By Jake Crouse and Amanda Richey
Furman was awarded a $50,000 grant through the Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment this year, a measure funded by the Henry Luce Foundation. The initiative is a competition for invited liberal arts colleges across America.
Dr. Katherine Kaup, James B. Duke Professor of Asian Studies and Political Science, drafted the proposal with the help of Furman faculty in fields relating to Asian studies, environmental science, and sustainability. The Henry Luce Foundation awarded Furman the $50,000 grant for a 15-month period, after which they can apply for a 4-year, $400,000 grant.
Kaup says that the proposal was drafted in a way that provides a number of opportunities at Furman as well as abroad. Last month, the Asians Studies Department, with the help of the Riley Institute, used the grant to help fund an international symposium, “China’s Environmental Crisis: Is There a Way Out?” The two-day, CLP-accredited symposium featured three talks that brought professors and researchers from around North America to Furman. A film series of similar aim will be also shown next spring as a CLP series.
The LIASE grant has also brought together an interdisciplinary board of faculty to discuss issues and plan events. The board, which meets once a month, is composed of 14 members from fields in the natural sciences, Asian studies, and political science. Kaup says that many professors don’t get a unique strategic opportunity like this.
“It’s fun to be in a room with folks that you don’t typically get to work with,” Kaup says.
A similar student group will also be funded by the grant as a task force for these issues. The students will collaborate with faculty, organize events, and be a think tank for ways to utilize Chinese environmental issues in curriculum and research.
Internationally, the grant will begin transforming study away opportunities in the near future. The China and Japan first-year summer experience that Furman regularly offers will reallocate nearly a week of its program to focus on the countryside of China. The program also follows up with a year of mandatory Chinese language classes and a first year seminar joint-taught by a professor of Asian studies and a professor from a department in the natural sciences. Kaup believes this program will be much more effective in capturing Chinese society and politics.
“I think this change will open students up to the diversity of China that they sometimes don’t see,” Kaup said.
Furman will also offer a May X that engages both service and learning in Yunnan province, the third poorest province in China. Four to six faculty and students from Yunnan Minzu University will also be invited to spend a semester at Furman and participate in the local River Basins Research Initiative, a program that studies the effects of urbanization on the Reedy River.
Yancey Fouché, of the Shi Center for Sustainability, is one of the coordinators of the initiative at Furman. She believes that the proposal will help students and faculty understand just how much of an effect Chinese policy and industrialization is having on America.
“I think that with Furman’s strong departments and study away programs as well as a growing number of international students, it is our obligation to consider global issues like these,” Fouché said.
Contact Dr. Kate Kaup, Yancey Fouché, or Dr. Dennis Haney of the Biology department if interested in learning more about the program.