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Program History

CSB/SJU’s Asian Roots: 1920’s-1950’s

  • In 1925, Minnesota’s Benedictine monks and sisters established Beijing-based Furen University, one of three such Catholic institutions in China (relocated to Taiwan after 1949). The monks subsequently founded Saint Anselm's Priory in Tokyo (recently moved to Fujimi).
  • In 1930, the sisters established a women’s college at Furen, subsequently founded a community and clinic in central China, and later opened a girls school in Japan.
  • Some Benedictines returned to Minnesota to promote Asian Studies at CSB/SJU and utilize the Benedictine network to maintain institutional connections with Asia.
  • In this way, CSB/SJU joined in the growing acknowledgment among U.S. colleges that interdisciplinary Asian Studies is a core concern of the liberal arts.

Establishing Asian Studies: 1960’s-1970’s

  • With a $140,400 grant from the Lewis W. and Maud Hill Foundation, CSB, SJU, and Saint Cloud State created the Tri-College East Asian Area Studies Program in 1969 to promote faculty training (supplemented by Fulbright Hays support), develop courses, and build library resources in Asian Studies.
  • Inspired by the Benedictine commitment to the liberal arts as "the center of disciplined inquiry and a rich preparation for the professions, public life, and service to others in many forms of work," CSB and SJU became the first of the Minnesota private colleges to offer an East Asian Studies major (albeit an individualized one).
  • After foundation funds were exhausted in 1977, the Tri-College program was disbanded, but CSB and SJU continued to offer Asia-related courses, including Chinese and Japanese language, and January Term projects about and in Asia.
  • In 1982, CSB and SJU joined the Midwest China Center for access to China-related resources.

Expanding Asian Studies: 1980’s-1990’s

  • By 1985, the economic surge of Japan, the “Asian Tigers," and China made Asia the center of the global economy (and America’s largest economic partner) and sparked an explosion in East-West interchange; this coincided with the rise of Asian-America.
  • Asia’s rise created the need to prepare young Americans, through a humanistic appreciation of Asian civilization, to become professional “Asia Hands” to keep the U.S. competitive in the post-2000 “Asian Century” world.
  • At CSB/SJU, enrollment in Asian Studies courses steadily increased.
  • Study abroad programs were established with Tokyo’s Sophia University in 1971-- superseded in 2003 by Bunkyo Gakuin University (BGU) -- and, in 1985, with Southwest China Normal University (now Southwest University) in Sichuan. Faculty and staff exchanges have also developed with both BGU and Southwest.

Institutionalizing Asian Studies: The Asian Studies Program, 1994-Present

  • In 1994, the Asian Studies Minor was established on the Tri-College foundation. The individualized major remained in force.
  • In 1995, Provost Clark Hendley created the Asian Studies Program, appointing Richard Bohr its Director and Norma Koetter Assistant to the Director. Its mandate was to develop an interdisciplinary curriculum on Asia’s great traditions, modern transformation, and emergence as the world’s new economic center as well as on America’s evolving relationship with this dynamic region. An interdependent curriculum and co-curriculum were to “affirm the Benedictine commitments to Asia, multiculturalism, global service, and citizenship” and to support two signal institutional goals: (1) to "excel in the study of the intersection of global cultures and community sustainability, leavened by the commitments of the Catholic intellectual life" and (2) to help students become "shapers and leaders of the next generation . . . [of] a rapidly-changing world, one filled with new opportunities but fraught with unprecedented challenges."
  • This action made CSB/SJU one of 147 schools in the Carnegie listing of 154 Category I liberal arts colleges to offer Asian Studies programs (ninety of which taught one or more Asian languages, with 76 offering an Asian Studies concentration).
  • During 1996-99, the Asian Studies Program pursued a three-stage planning process to:
    1. Inventory and integrate Asia-interested/involved monastic, campus, and non-campus community resources and stakeholders;
    2. Assess future needs across these sectors; and
    3. Bring more speakers and performing artists to campus; close curricular gaps by encouraging academic departments to offer more Asia-related courses; broaden faculty development; enhance the interdependence of curricular and experiential elements; and support multiculturalism by assisting in recruiting and retaining Asian and Asian American students.
  • In 1996, CSB/SJU joined ASIANetwork, a coalition of 175 U.S. liberal arts colleges which collaborate in study and student-faculty research in Asia, faculty development, broadening Asian language instruction, and seeking foundation support.
  • In June-July 1997, a CSB/SJU faculty development tour of East Asia, funded by a $30,000 Strategic Initiatives Grant, resulted in the integration of Asian components into 13 courses. Its participants joined with study abroad directors, January/May Term instructors, and numerous other stakeholders in steadfastly promoting Asian Studies on our campuses.
  • In 1998, CSB/SJU began an exchange relationship with Zhanjiang Normal University (ZNU) in China’s southwestern corner. CSB/SJU has hosted ZNU student/faculty/staff study groups, and ZNU has hosted CSB/SJU’s students participating in the annual May Term experience in South China.
  • During 2000-2006, the Asian Studies Learning Community (ASLC) received $123,000 from the Bush Foundation-funded “Expanding the Classroom Walls” project at CSB/SJU to integrate humanistic and “applied” Asian Studies by:
    1. Infusing more Asian Studies into CSB/SJU;
    2. Enlarging and integrating the community of on- and off-campus Asian Studies learning opportunities, resources, and partners locally and globally;
    3. Enhancing career preparation through broadened involvement in collaborative student-faculty research, conference attendance, and study abroad as well as teaching, volunteer, service learning, and internship opportunities;
    4. Broadening faculty development to expand the interdisciplinary curriculum through 22 summer grants and a South Asia study tour; and
    5. Expanding the Asian Studies web site.
  • In 2000-03, Asian Studies commissioned three consultant reports, the conclusions of which guided the development of the Asian Studies program review. In 2003, Asian Studies undertook its first program review, from which the administration endorsed the following recommendations in November 2003:
    1. Pursue the feasibility of instituting third-year Chinese and Japanese;
    2. Employ a Coordinator of Asian Studies to oversee the co-curriculum;
    3. Develop gateway and capstone courses and create an Asia-based business/management program in collaboration with alumnae/i, commercial, and government entities here and in Asia;
    4. Develop alumnae/i networks and programs to create additional career preparation opportunities for students/graduates in Asia;
    5. Implement an annual May Term to study the consequences of rapid economic development in China;
    6. Support the Admission Office’s efforts to recruit and retain Asian and Asian American students;
    7. Develop a proposal for a regularized Asian Studies major; and
    8. Create an Asian Studies Advisory Council.
  • In 2003-04, Asian Studies acknowledged the increasing global significance of South Asia and Islamic lands by adding courses in these areas.
  • In 2004-06, Masaichirou Nashiro, Vice Principal of Shogaku High School in Okinawa, served as Visiting Lecturer in Asian Studies at CSB/SJU.
  • In March 2005, a faculty/staff development study tour of India explored ways to enhance the curriculum and promote study abroad, teaching, internship, service learning, and other volunteer opportunities in South Asia.
  • In May 2005, CSB/SJU’s Choral Arts ensemble toured Asian sites with CSB/SJU ties.
  • In June 2005, Jeanne Cook and Richard Ice explored short-term study opportunities with several Chinese universities to enrich the study in China program.
  • In August 2005, five CSB/SJU students organized a service learning experience at a Catholic primary school for poor children in Kolkata, India.
  • In September 2005, Joe Rogers was appointed Coordinator of Asian Studies to manage the Program’s co-curriculum. He has been succeeded in this position by Kristi Kremers.
  • In 2006, the state of Minnesota established an agreement with China to bring Chinese language teachers to Minnesota schools and, with a $250,000 legislative appropriation, set up the “Minnesota-China Initiative” to further expand the teaching of Chinese in Minnesota schools. That year, the U.S. government, along with private funders like the Freeman Foundation, began a major push to expand Chinese language instruction in the lower grades to help young Americans become globally competitive. This creates enormous potential for liberal arts college recruitment of future Asian Studies majors.
  • In the summer of 2006, Henry Jakubowski initiated his annual Summer Science Research Exchange Program with Southwest University.
  • In 2008, Rachel Sherman Johnson joined the program as Asian Studies Coordinator.
  • In 2009, the Asian Studies Program received a Title VI grant from the US Department of Education, which allowed CSB/SJU to expand the Asian Studies curriculum, and provided funding for CSB/SJU to develop an Asian Studies major. The grant runs through July 2011.
  • In 2009, the Chinese and Japanese language programs were able to expand by adding a third year of language courses and literature courses in each language. These courses will be taught by tenure-line PhDs.
  • In 2010, two professors received ASIANetwork/Freeman Foundation grants to conduct research with students in Asia in the summer of 2010. Professor Geng will be leading a student group to study the storytelling of Geng Village in China, and Gar Kellom will oversee student research projects in Nepal.
  • Beginning in Spring 2011, the Asian Studies Program will offer a semester-long study abroad program in India. The program will contain a service learning component, as well as Bengali language courses.

Thanks to the strong support of academic departments and the administration, 13 Asian Studies faculty members currently teach 26 courses in eight disciplines. In addition, First-Year Seminar includes sections on Asian Studies.