Brigham Young University added to its area studies expertise on Asia, Europe and the Middle East with the recent receipt of three prestigious grants from the U.S. Department of Education totaling several million dollars, putting BYU in the company of Harvard, NYU, Columbia, UC Berkeley and the University of Washington.
The grants include new National Resource Centers for Europe and Asia and the renewal of the College of Humanities’ National Middle East Language Resource Center. The Intermountain Consortium for Asian and Pacific Studies is a shared award, with the University of Utah as the primary investigator. All three centers are housed at the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies.
These grants are intended to help develop international and area studies expertise among students. “There is also the need for broader knowledge about the world, which is why Title VI has been so important,” said Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense. The office of Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) delivered the news about the grants to the university.
“Title VI grants are highly competitive and indicate existing capacity,” said Eric Hyer, co-director for the Asian grant, coordinator of Asian Studies at the David M. Kennedy Center and a political science professor. “They are given to develop programs already producing results — and to help them do even more.”
The Asian NRC grant will allow BYU to expand its course offerings, conferences and workshops, andoutreach to public schools, and to offer students fellowships to study Asian languages and area studies.
“The European grant renews federal support for BYU’s Center for the Study of Europe, providing approximately $1 million over four years,” said Wade Jacoby, CSE director and professor of political science who led the Europe grant writing process. Many of CSE’s key programs and opportunities for faculty, students, and the community will now be enhanced by this award, which is given to ten U.S. universities every four years.
A number of new language-learning initiatives will be funded by CSE’s new grant. In addition, planned curricular innovations include new capstone courses for the European studies major. Several existing internship programs will enjoy additional resources. Faculty study groups in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Early Modern, and Long Romanticism will receive funding for additional speakers. CSE will also sponsor conferences on topics as diverse as human trafficking, European-Chinese relations and European portrait painting.
Students will benefit from generous scholarships to help them develop language abilities.
“One of the exciting things is that for the first time Foreign Language Area Studies will be available for undergraduate as well as graduate students who focus on strategic languages — an area in which BYU excels,“ said Martha Peacock, associate director of the Center for the Study of Europe and professor of art history. BYU’s reputation continues to expand as it builds on its deep international strengths in critical parts of the world.
The National Middle East Language Resource Center is the only Title VI Language Resource Center nationally that is focused solely on the languages of the Middle East.
“NMELRC’s mandate is to increase national capacity in Middle East languages. We do this by working closely with literally the best and brightest in the field at 20 major universities and with a number of partners abroad,” said Kirk Belnap, NMELRC director and professor of Arabic. “We’re also active on the K-12 front, sponsoring such activities as the STARTALK intensive Arabic camp for high school students now underway on campus.”
In 2001, the David M. Kennedy Center led the initiative to become a national player in area studies grants. “We knew BYU had significant strengths in international and area studies, but the grant-writing process allowed us to marshal data and learn more about ourselves,” said Jeffrey Ringer, Kennedy Center director.
BYU’s Marriott School of Management had already been involved with the Title VI CIBE grant for many years, housed in the Whitmore Global Management Center and led by Lee Radebaugh and Cynthia Halliday.
Efforts in the first grant cycle rewarded BYU with the National Middle East Language Center in August 2002, followed by European Studies, largely due to the fact that BYU had more than 200 faculty who research and teach European topics as well as study abroad programs operating for more than 40 years.
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Writer: Lee Simons