Friday, Oct. 16, 2009
K-STATE OPENING DOORS FOR STUDENTS TO EXPERIENCE, UNDERSTAND INDIA AND THE REGION
MANHATTAN -- Many Kansas State University students already know a thing or two about India and are looking for a deeper understanding of the subcontinent, according to two K-Staters who are working to give students more opportunities to learn about and experience South Asia.
"For instance, in the 1960s and '70s, most people's idea of India centered on sacred cows, Ravi Shankar, spirituality and bullock carts," said Barry Michie, director of international program support at K-State. "But I think we've gone way beyond that point with students' perceptions of South Asia today as a region of growing economic and political importance to the U.S. and their own lives."
The university has received a two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education to enhance K-State offerings in South Asian studies. The Title VI grant under the Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program will help K-State develop a proposed interdisciplinary secondary major in South Asian studies and will expand faculty and student opportunities in South Asia across all colleges. A four-semester sequence of Hindi language classes is included in the project. Michie said they hope to have the secondary major approved by the university and the Kansas Board of Regents by the end of the 2010-2011 academic year.
The South Asian studies project marks the third such grant for K-State, which also created East Asian and African studies programs, which support Chinese and Swahili language programs, respectively.
Michie is principal investigator; Bradley Shaw, director of international and area studies, is co-principal investigator. They said it is more than just India's growing importance in world politics and economics that makes South Asian studies a priority at K-State.
"Students today see it in their own self interest to know more about the world and to add some kind of international dimension to their study, whether it's generalized international study or a more specific region of the world," Shaw said. "They see possible professional opportunities for themselves -- whether they choose engineering, a humanities discipline, journalism or any another field -- and they want to have a competitive edge."
The planned secondary major would not only add Hindi language classes. It also is designed to create 14 new
or revised courses with a focus on South Asia and adds experiential programs in India like study abroad
programs, joint projects, internships and volunteer opportunities for undergraduate students. K-State faculty across all disciplines will have opportunities to revise their courses, travel in India and create relationships for study or research.
"These faculty opportunities fan out to have the effect of reaching many undergraduate students," Shaw said.
He and Michie said they have found that many K-State students are interested in learning more about South Asia and studying a South Asian language. Michie said much of this interest comes from students whose hometowns have strong Indian communities and from Indian-American students at K-State who want to learn more about their background.
"We hope to tap into a heritage market of students whose parents are from India but who themselves have been born and raised in the United States," Michie said.
Moreover, they said K-State already has a strong nucleus of classes in the College of Arts and Sciences that deal with issues in South Asia.
In addition to Michie and Shaw, the South Asia project committee includes: Sajid Alavi, associate professor of grain science and industry; Robert Corum, head of the department of modern languages; Sanjoy Das, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering; Jana Hawley, head of the department of apparel, textiles and interior design; Swinder Janda, professor of marketing; Aruna Michie, associate professor of political science; Bimal Paul, professor of geography; and Daryl Youngman, associate professor at Hale Library.