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CHAPEL HILL — The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s College of Arts and Sciences has been awarded $2 million from the Freeman Foundation to support its Asian studies program. The gift will fund faculty positions, course development grants, library acquisitions, a distinguished speakers series and new study abroad scholarships and programs in Asia. The foundation award for Asian studies is the largest ever received by the college, the oldest and largest academic unit at Carolina.

The award was made through the Freeman Foundation’s Undergraduate Asian Studies Funding Initiative, which seeks to foster a greater appreciation and understanding of Asia by dramatically increasing the number of U.S. undergraduates taking Asian studies courses. The gift will be dispersed over four years by the Vermont-based foundation.

“We are most grateful to the Freeman Foundation for recognizing and supporting our efforts to make our Asian studies program among the best in the country,” said Dr. Risa Palm, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “We have made it a top priority to provide all undergraduates with an international education as preparation for citizenship and leadership in a global society. The college was already implementing major Asian studies initiatives, and the Freeman Foundation gift will provide us the additional resources necessary to significantly expand our teaching about Asia and to offer a larger, more diverse range of courses to our students about this vital region of the world.”

Dr. Miles Fletcher, professor of history and chair of the curriculum in Asian studies, said the grant would open up marvelous opportunities for both faculty and students. “It will fund two new positions in Chinese and Japanese language and literature, which will enable UNC-Chapel Hill to become the first campus in the UNC system to offer majors in those two fields,” Fletcher said. UNC-Chapel Hill is the only UNC campus to offer an interdisciplinary major in Asian studies and minors in four Asian languages (Arabic, Chinese, Hindi/Urdu, and Japanese).

To increase and enhance current courses on Asia, Freeman funds will be used for course development and travel grant opportunities for faculty. A total of 36 new undergraduate courses on Asia will be developed as a result of these initiatives. To further support these expanded course offerings, new research materials for faculty and students will be purchased for Davis Library, which houses one of the finest Asian studies collections in the Southeast.

“The Freeman gift will have a major impact on the undergraduate curriculum in international and area studies,” said James Hevia, chair of the curriculum in international and area studies. “The many new courses will not only greatly enhance the Asian track of the major, but allow for the development of a curriculum that deals with the processes of globalization across the region.”

Several new study abroad programs to encourage more students to study and learn about Asia will be launched with the Freeman award, including a summer program in Beijing with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Up to 45 study-abroad scholarships will be made available for undergraduates attending UNC-Chapel Hill-sponsored programs in Asia.

The award will also provide initial funding for two additional faculty who specialize in Asia, and for a scholar who will also serve as director of a new Center for Asian Studies*, which will be the focal point for Asia-related activity both within the college and in other campus units throughout the university. A search will be launched shortly for the director of the center, which will be housed in a new Center for Global Education.

“The receipt of this award, combined with the generous gift from alumnus Alston Gardner that was announced in the fall, has made this a landmark year for Asian studies at UNC,” Fletcher said. In November, Gardner, a 1977 alumnus from Atlanta, pledged $10 million for a range of activities to support international and Asian studies at Carolina.

According to the Freeman Foundation’s annual report, one of its major objectives is to strengthen the bonds of friendship between the United States and the countries of the Far East. With programs like the Undergraduate Asian Studies Funding Initiative, Foundation officials hope to foster a greater appreciation by Americans and the people of East Asia for each other’s culture, history and economy.

Other recipients of Freeman Foundation support at UNC-Chapel Hill include the University Center for International Studies, which has received funding to form the North Carolina Teaching Asia Network in partnership with Columbia University. The network conducts a series of seminars on East Asia for middle and high school teachers in North Carolina.

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*The Carolina Asia Center

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