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The Center for Asian Studies, CAS, at CU has been awarded two grants totaling $1.8 million and is now one of only three National Resource Centers for Asian Studies in the nation.
The four-year grants were awarded by the U.S. Department of Education and will fund library acquisitions, K-12 outreach programs, graduate student fellowships and new language classes in Farsi and Indonesian.
According to the director of CAS, Laurel Rodd, the organization is interdisciplinary and represents 83 faculty members, five professional schools and 20 academic departments.
“When you go for the NRC (National Resource Centers) grant, your program already has to have a lot of strengths,” Rodd said. “The grants are quite an endorsement of what we were already doing, but they also give us an opportunity to build.”
The CAS hopes the grant will help to improve the university’s language program.
“For a university of its size, CU has traditionally offered very few language classes,” Rodd said.
Chinese and Japanese were added to the curriculum after World War II, and Korean, Arabic and Hindi languages are now offered.
Farsi and Indonesian, which will begin in fall 2007 after a national search for instructors, were chosen because they had the most student interest. There are also many heritage speakers of those languages on the CU campus, Rodd said.
Farsi, or Persian, is spoken mainly in Iran, according to Abderrahman Aissa, a professor of Arabic in the Spanish and Portuguese department.
“With the changes that are going on in the world, we need an American citizenship knowledgeable in all areas of the world,” Rodd said.
Introductory Asian language classes are open to CU students in all degree programs. Although Chinese and Japanese are the only Asian languages with their own majors, Rodd said that the hope is for each language to eventually become a four-year degree program.
Rodd sees many anthropology, linguistics and religious studies majors in the new language programs. Recently, however, there have been more engineering, MCDB and computer science majors who will need the language skills to do collaborative work with those in their field in other parts of the world.
“It’s exciting to get the grants, but it’s also going to be a lot of work,” Rodd said.
Laura Kehoe, a sophomore music major, is taking an introductory Hindi class being offered for the first time this fall.
“I think I was born interested in Hindi,” Kehoe said. “I’ve always loved Indian music.”
The classes seem to be gaining more and more popularity among the student body.
“The classes had a bumpy start, but now students are requesting 3000 level courses,” Aissa said. “Arabic is a difficult language, you are like a baby when you first begin because it’s not based on the Roman alphabet.”
The classes aren’t easy, but the students seem motivated to learn it, Aissa said.
“They always arrive early to class,” Aissa said.
For more information on the Center for Asian Studies, visit www.colorado.eduCAS.