Rice’s Asian studies receives federal boost

As a continent, Asia occupies a strategic place for the United States in foreign policy, national security and economic growth. The School of Humanities’ Chao Center for Asian Studies recently received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to enhance its Asian studies curriculum and expand student opportunities through internship programs in Houston and Asia.


Sonia Ryang

Provided by the Education Department’s Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Languages Program, the two-year grant will also help create a new gateway course on transnational Asian studies, establish K-12 teacher workshops on transnational Asian studies and implement a transnational Asia speaker series that can enhance teaching and public outreach. The $150,000 grant will receive matching funding from Rice, whose strategic initiatives include international engagement and cultural understanding.

“The current state of political and economic fluidity and intense flow of goods, humans and ideas across the Asian continent are presenting new challenges to our traditional understanding of Asia based on the artificial subdivision of it into East Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia,” said Sonia Ryang, the Chao Center director and Rice’s T.T. and W.F. Chao Professor of Asian Studies. “The complexity of transnational interactions in contemporary Asia requires new ways of thinking about how institutions of higher education can produce globally competent citizens and professionals.”

Ryang said Rice enjoys an advantageous location in Houston, a city that has one of the most diverse and most rapidly increasing Asian populations among major U.S. urban centers. The Chao Center has a number of internationally recognized scholars who focus specifically on transnational Asia, she said.

“The implementation of the new introductory course on the transnational Asia will prepare students better for a rapidly globalizing Asia. Assisted by these measures, the Asian studies major will draw upon the interdisciplinary dimensions of our knowledge about Asia and enhance the collaboration between departments and programs at Rice,” Ryang said. She hopes that with the help of the grant, the Chao Center will be able to attract more students to major in Asian studies. She emphasized that given its flexibility, the bachelor’s degree in Asian studies is ideal for science and engineering majors who want to pursue a double major.

Ryang said the K-12 teacher workshops will enable Rice faculty to engage actively with the wider Houston community, share their knowledge with teachers and help improve classroom learning for students.

For more information about the Chao Center’s research, programming and events, go to http://chaocenter.rice.edu.

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.