When people think of Japan, three local professors are hoping they will also think of the Triangle.
Professors from UNC, N.C. State University and Duke University received a grant from the Japan Foundation in Tokyo to establish a program that will be run jointly by the three universities.
The program — Triangle Center for Japanese Studies — will be funded by the $270,000 grant over three years.
The professors said they hope the new center will serve as an information hub for all Japan-related events in the Triangle — such as speakers, conferences and community events — and expand the Asian studies graduate programs at all three schools.
The center won’t have its own building, but will be spread across departments at the three universities, said Morgan Pitelka, associate professor of Asian studies at UNC and one of the center’s leaders.
Simon Partner, a history professor at Duke and another leader of the center, said most universities in the U.S. only have a few Japanese specialists, while the Triangle has about 20.
“To find a group in one area with a number that large is very rare,” he said.
David Ambaras, a leader of the center and a history professor at N.C. State, said a main goal of the center is to take advantage of that concentration and use it to enhance each of the universities’ Asian studies programs.
Partner said the team hopes to expand the existing graduate programs in Asian studies and make them stronger through the new collaboration.
Asian studies graduate students involved in the new program will be able to take classes at any of the three universities while receiving a single degree, Partner said.
When the grant expires in three years, team members said they hope to secure funding from other sources so the center can continue to support its expanded programs.
“We’re in the process of having meetings with the core faculty from all three institutions about what our vision is,” Ambaras said, adding that they are also looking for extra funding outside the universities.
Partner said the team is working to boost the program’s website to begin building its reputation.
“Once we have the website up and running, we hope the community will turn to it as the one-stop shop for anything Japan-related going on in the Triangle.”
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