Center for Southeast Asian Studies receives federal funding

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded NIU’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS) nearly $2.5 million over the next four years to continue promoting the study and research of Southeast Asian languages and countries. This is the sixth time CSEAS has received such funding.

Eric Jones

“NIU has long been a recognized leader in the field of Southeast Asian studies. Being given the Title VI designation and funding allows us to continue that distinguished tradition,” said CSEAS Acting Director Eric Jones.

Title VI is a provision of the 1965 Higher Education Act funding centers for area studies, which serve as vital national resources for world regional knowledge and foreign language training. National Resource Centers (NRCs) provide high-caliber area studies content training and research while Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) centers deliver specialized language training.

“Since its founding in 1963, CSEAS has been built around a desire to understand the region, engage its peoples and environments, and share those insights with the campus, national and global community,” Jones said. Under the direction of Director Emeritus Clark Neher, it successfully applied for its first Title VI grant in 1997.

Undergraduate and graduate students benefit from the federal funding. The center’s academic-year FLAS fellowships are competitive awards that provide monthly stipends and tuition-fee waivers to NIU students learning Southeast Asian languages on campus. This year, the center is awarding 15 FLAS fellowships to nine graduate students and six undergraduate students in fields from anthropology and biology to law and political science. The center also offers summer FLAS grants, which cover tuition and a stipend for travel and expenses for students to study Southeast Asian languages abroad. This past summer 14 NIU students traveled to Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand for immersion language study.

As NIU’s only comprehensive NRC, CSEAS stands out as a flagship program with significant institutional resources. The successful 2018 proposal, Teach Southeast Asia, combines the center’s long tradition of excellence in research and teaching about Southeast Asia with the closely overlapping priorities of the Department of Education.

“We look forward to new initiatives with NIU’s College of Education, among other grant projects, to further these goals,” Jones said.

Teaming up with the College of Education’s successful Educate Global program, CSEAS will send pre-service K-8 teachers to intern and teach English in Southeast Asian classrooms. Using its extensive government and education networks in the region, CSEAS will locate host schools and cooperating teachers. NRC funding will send three pre-service K-8 teachers and a COE faculty member to oversee instruction for one month in a school in Southeast Asia for three years of the grant.

As an interdisciplinary center, CSEAS is affiliated with more than 18 departments on campus and includes 28 faculty and staff associates on its center council. It offers an undergraduate minor and a graduate certificate in Southeast Asian studies.

Other Title VI Southeast Asia centers in the U.S. include Cornell University, University of California-Berkeley, University of California-Los Angeles, University of Michigan, University of Washington and University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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