The Elliott School of International Affairs received nearly $5 million in grants this month to build up different components of its East Asian studies program.
The grants give the program a significant boost amid the economic crisis plaguing Asia and fierce competition by several area universities for limited funds.
President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg will match a $1 million grant from the Korea Foundation, a Korea-based organization that promotes Korean studies. The funds will be used to hire an endowed chair for the Korean studies component of the East Asian program.
“I feel as if we have caught a star,” said Young-Key Kim-Renaud, professor of Korean language, culture and international affairs. “It’s a testimony to what we’ve achieved so far in Korean studies at GW. Although not large in scale, we have always aimed at excellence.”
GW students from Korean language classes, the Korean Student Association and Korean American Student Association, and faculty and administrators lobbied the foundation with proposals to expand and solidify the Korean studies component.
Kim-Renaud said the University’s honest presentation of the state of the Korean studies program paid off.
Although GW does not have as wide a range of courses as some competing universities, GW’s Korean language program has gained international reputation.
Kim-Renaud said GW’s annual, internationally known Korean humanities series has gained recognition, and conferences at GW have resulted in three critically acclaimed books on Korean.
“It’s amazing we were able to (get the support of the Korea Foundation) because there was such fierce competition for the grant,” said Joseb Gim, KASA president.
The $1 million grant will be paid over the next four years in $250,000 installments, said Thomas Bleha, ESIA director of external affairs.
“We probably should toot our own horn a little more because (the grants) are quite remarkable,” said Bleha, who said he hopes to begin the search for the endowed professor by the next academic year. “The professor could begin as early as 2000.”
Bleha said because Korea is one of the most important countries in Asia, the Elliott School sought to fill the gap in its program.
ESIA’s Japanese studies program will also receive additional financial help.
Forty-six Japanese companies are donating a total of $1 million to fund a chair for Japan-U.S. relations in memory of Gaston Sigur, a former GW distinguished professor of East Asian studies and State Department official who died in April 1995, said Bleha said.
Associate Dean of the Elliott School Edward McCord said former GW President Lloyd Elliott and the University have contributed additional grants, “which should bring the ballpark total (for Japanese studies) to about $3 million,” including the grants from the Japanese corporations.
“With these two grants, we will have one of the strongest East Asia programs in the country,” he said. “Because it happened rather recently, it will take a while for others to appreciate it, but the benefits are available to students now.”
Kim-Renaud said KSA members will continue their fund-raising efforts even though the Elliott School originally set a goal of a $5 million endowment.
“We definitely have a strong program in China and Japan,” she said. “What I really wish is for GW to reach the goal, then we’ll have a really strong, well-rounded (East Asian) program.”