By Vivian Luu
Northwest Asian Weekly
Students of the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington (UW) are getting a bonus. As the fall quarter beings, so will the Global Asia Institute — the nation’s first center for Pan-Asian studies.
The Washington state Senate passed a bill in May to form the Global Asia Institute. As the state’s largest university and an institution with an Asian studies program already in place, the UW was ideal for the center.
State Sen. Paull Shin (D-Edmonds) was among the bill’s primary sponsors. He earned two masters and a doctorate degree from the UW and has taught Asian history at various colleges and universities for more than 30 years. Shin says current programs narrow in on countries such as China, Japan, and Korea.
“When we talk about Asia, we don’t just talk about those three countries,” Shin said.
“We are living in a global society,” he said. “Much of the global association, conflict, change, and problems occur throughout the Asian continent.” Asian affairs programs at the University of Washington began when the School of Oriental Studies was founded 100 years ago.
Shin added that understanding how people live and think in these regions could be crucial to understanding global interactions. “We talk about Middle Eastern countries and about Islam,” he said. “But within Islam, there are many sects. We don’t understand that in the Western world, [students] get to see human behavior by studying Eastern religion (Buddhism, Hinduism), and they will have a better perspective of what global society will look like. If you know what Islam religion is, what makes people who follow Islam tick, you’ll be much better equipped to study international relations.”
With the institute’s formation, the UW is the first in the United States to offer this kind of support for Pan-Asian studies — an invaluable resource for students, Shin said.
“It will broaden their minds and allow them to see the issues instead of living in a small cocoon,” he said. “They get to see the world.”
This mindset will help students get ahead, said Jackson School Director Anand Yang. “We can no longer think about countries as isolates,” he said. “What happens in the world happens because of forces that are trans-regional and trans-national. That’s very much part of what globalization has done to the world.”
The Institute might be just what UW students need. Washington is the most trade-dependent state in the United States, with a third of the state’s jobs wedged in the export industry, mainly through Microsoft and Boeing. These jobs balance on a 9.7 percent national unemployment rate and 9.2 percent statewide, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics.
But as the UW takes a hit from the economic recession, so does the Global Asia Institute and the Jackson School. The Seattle Times reported that the UW is already feeling the effects of a $73 million budget cut as academic and athletic programs are being slashed.
The UW College of Arts and Sciences alone is facing a 9 percent cut, according to the university’s budget report.
UW President Mark Emmert said to KCTS in May that 800 or more positions will be eliminated, 400 of which will include layoffs. As classes start in the fall, students will have access to fewer classes. Libraries — if they remain open — will close earlier.
This leaves little, if any, funding for the Global Asia Institute. As a result, the center is being fuInded entirely by private and federal funds. Yang said funds for Asia-oriented programs within the Jackson School are being redistributed. While Yang did not disclose how much has been collected for the center, he said it did not come close to the $50,000 to $100,000 that the Institute needs to operate.
Yang will be leading the Institute, along with East Asian Studies professor Donald Hellman and Chinese Studies professor David Bachman. All of them are currently managing the center on a pro bono basis, as another aim of the Institute is to serve as a platform of public information and education about Asia. “It could provide interested parties with a seminar on nuclear issues relating to Korea,” he said. “It could be [a place where] people seeking to do business in Asia can talk about the economy.”
Students will help communities connect with public, civic, and ethnic organizations.
“The institute will sponsor activities and programs on its own or in conjunction with other organizations,” Yang said. “The institute could be doing something with the Seattle Asian Art Museum on art culture history. There is a series coming up with SAAM. The Jackson School is working on presenting every Saturday this fall on China, Japan, and India.”
Yang added that while it is not a project specifically for the institute, members of the Jackson School are collaborating with the Trade Development Alliance on a series of talks on public economic situations in different countries — an initiative that is akin to what the Institute aims to do. ♦
Vivian Luu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.