This summer, the the Carolina Asia Center received a $900,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, a not-for-profit organization based in New York, to further the studies of Southeast Asia at the University.
With this grant, the University plans to develop a Southeast Asian studies minor, to expand its Vietnamese language instruction and to spread the study of Southeast Asia to other campuses.
Christian Lentz, an associate professor of geography at UNC, was the principal investigator of the University’s project, entitled “Bringing Southeast Asia Home.”
The Luce Foundation has sought to endow multi-million dollar grants for the past several years with the purpose of developing Southeast Asia studies.
“Luce has long been a supporter of Asian studies more generally, but they also know that Southeast Asian studies tend to be a bit overlooked by way of comparison with East Asia, especially China, but also Korea and Japan,” Lentz said.
The money from the grant will be spent in different ways, one of which is undergraduate curriculum development, more specifically Vietnamese language instruction, according to Lentz.
“We restarted Vietnamese language instruction two years ago — we are on year three — and we’re sort of gradually building support with the ultimate goal of having a full-time Vietnamese language instructor on campus so they can do 100, 200 and 300 level classes,” he said.
The University offers various courses relating to East Asia and South Asia, specifically the languages spoken in these countries. However, there are currently no languages from Southeast Asia in which students can minor, until now.
“Our East Asia program is absolutely fantastic and has been doing great work," Kevin Fogg, associate director of the Carolina Asia Center, said. "Our South Asia program is very well established, but for the past few years, the Southeast Asia wing of that has been the weakest of our regions in Asia in terms of the coverage, both in the curriculum and co-curricular supporting events.”