Small faculty group presses on with Asian Studies idea
Disappointed that they haven’t received stronger support from the University, a core group of four or five faculty is forging ahead to create an area of specialization in Asian Studies that will offer students courses on a broad range of Chinese and other Asian topics, plus a study abroad component.
A number of Arts and Science faculty met with visiting Oregon State University Anthropology Chair and Chinese studies expert John Young last fall to explore how they might set up an Asian Studies program. Young encouraged them.
Key faculty involved in the initiative, Religious Studies & Anthropology Head James Mullens and Assistant Prof. Lorne Holyoak say there’s no doubt there is ample demand from students and sufficient interest from faculty in departments like their own, sociology, political studies, history and others.
And Mullens and Holyoak say the fact that the U of S already hosts hundreds of Chinese visa students, has faculty strength in Asian Studies, and has internationalization as one of the goals of its new Integrated Plan, makes the move a natural one.
Students pursuing Asian Studies could proceed on to careers in international business or the foreign service, Mullens says.
He notes, “People in Saskatchewan don’t realize that we’re a Pacific Rim nation. And one million Canadians have a Chinese background.” China is currently reaching out to partner with the West in business and higher education, and Mullens thinks the U of S is perfectly positioned to do that.
Over the past few years, he, Holyoak and other faculty have been steadily trying to build capacity in Asian Studies. This spring, as they’ve done for the past few years, they will host two visiting Chinese scholars who will teach here for a number of weeks. And they will offer the third annual six-credit-unit combined intersession U of S course May 16-27 and study tour to China May 30-June 27.
In the College of Arts and Science Integrated Plan for 2003-07 and its Humanities & Fine Arts Division planning documents, the Asian Studies initiative is mentioned favourably in the “Major Initiatives & Commitments” section. Mullens notes that now there is a larger push to create a U of S School of International Studies, and perhaps Asian Studies could fit into that.
College documents note that “four of the five permanent faculty (in Religious Studies and Anthropology) have expertise in Asian Studies” – and Associate Dean Judith Rice Henderson says, “There is some favour for Asian Studies in the College, but we’re not sure what form it may take.”
Mullens says, “Our concern is that it doesn’t slide backwards on the agenda. All the major universities have (Asian Studies).”
Mullens sees a broad range of U of S strengths gaining from increased ties to China through an Asian Studies program, including agriculture, biotechnology, fine art, physics, commerce, education and others.
He, Holyoak and other faculty are doing their best to make sure the idea moves forward. Regardless of lack of support for a formal Asian Studies program, they say they plan to offer a full term abroad in China starting next January. Holyoak says the response of the students on the intersession China study tours has been enthusiastic, and they want more time there and more opportunity to interact with Chinese families – and the term abroad will provide for more in-depth study.
“We’re building all the necessary strength to carry Asian Studies on here,” Mullens says.