The East-West Center at JCCC is celebrating 10 years of helping students, faculty and the community learn more about Asia.
As the one of the 20 regional sites for the center based in Honolulu, Hawaii, the JCCC East-West Center has helped faculty infuse Asian studies into its curriculum.
““The 21st century has been described by some as an Asian century,” said Carolyn Kadel, director, international education. “There’s no question that our students – whatever their focus – will need to know about Asian culture, and not just from a financial standpoint. I think there’s a lot to learn from Asia.”
To that end, JCCC’s East-West Center will serve as state project coordinator for a new three-year initiative, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The project, which includes 15 community colleges in six states, will help faculty and staff develop new course syllabi, web resources and public outreach activities about how different Asian societies view cultural differences.
The project, entitled “Bridging Cultures,” will focus on China and Southeast Asia under administration of the East-West Center’s Asian Studies Development Program.
“Bridging Cultures” is only the latest in a line of projects, conferences and initiatives by the regional East-West Center at JCCC.
Faculty members have attended the Infusing Institute at the East-West Center’s main office in Honolulu. There, they learn how to infuse Asian culture into whatever they teach, from literature to business to biology.
They’ve also attended regional conferences that can be either thematic or geographic in scope. JCCC has hosted two of these seminars, one on China and one on India.
The India conference in 2008 was representative of trend toward studying all of Asia, and not just China and Japan, Kadel said.
“When we first started [as a regional center], the programs were concentrated on East Asia – China, Japan, Korea,” she said. “More recently, the programs have been expanding into Southeast Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, Eurasia -- so we’re talking now about the exposure of the faculty to a large part of the world, and certainly to a large part of the world’s population.”
Faculty and staff members also have traveled to Asia to see firsthand the cultural dynamics of the continent.
“The world has changed. One of the things that’s so useful about the Asian Studies Development Program is that it is a rich faculty professional development experience. It’s a wonderful mid-career opportunity for people to explore a new area, and some have had career-changing effects,” Kadel said.
She said many of the faculty members who are currently teaching were educated in the 1970s and ‘80s, when the focus in most disciples was Eurocentric. It becomes easy to fall into the habit of teaching what you know, Kadel said, which is why the East-West Center has far-reaching implications on students at JCCC.
“It’s an initiative that has a lot of staying power. It can continue to benefit the college and the community long into the future,” Kadel said.