College of East Asian Studies Approved

On Tuesday the faculty approved a proposal for a College of East Asian Studies. This program will gather together some of our existing resources and help us to bring additional support to campus. Here’s the proposal summary:

We propose to merge three existing units—the East Asian Studies Program (EAST), the Asian Languages and Literatures Department (AL&L), and the Freeman Center for East Asian Studies (FEAS)—into a single unit, the College of East Asian Studies (CEAS). The CEAS primarily will be housed in the Freeman Center (which will retain its name, though no longer have its own Director), with additional offices in Fisk Hall. We also propose moving Korean language instruction from Less Commonly Taught Languages into the CEAS. The CEAS will feature an enhanced major as well as a new minor, together with enhanced curricular and co-curricular offerings for students across the university. We also expect that the CEAS will further enhance our outreach activities serving the campus, community, and alumni.

CEAS will have a minor, extensive language training and six core areas of study in a major:

i)     Art History and Art

ii)     Language, Literature, and Film

iii)     Music

iv)     History

v)     Philosophy and Religion

vi)     Political Economy

There will be many occasions for students and faculty to work together, and to join in community-building activities on and off campus.

I’m delighted that in the coming year Wesleyan will open its fifth interdisciplinary college, with CEAS joining the College of Letters, College of Social Studies, College of the Environment and the College of Film and the Moving Image. This represents a substantial effort at collaboration, experimentation, exploration of tradition and instigation of innovation. I am confident that these colleges will join our existing programs and departments to energize the distinctive education experience of Wesleyan students and expand recognition of the university.

Welcome to the new College of East Asian Studies!

Rethinking the Enlightenment with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

While the Spring Fling bands were heating up the Freeman Athletic Center, the Freeman Center for East Asian Studies began hosting a remarkable group of scholars from China and the United States to discuss a comparative approach to the Enlightenment. My Wesleyan teacher, Hayden White, the most important theorist of history of the last 50 years, helped to get things started with a talk that focuses on the intersection of history, science and aesthetics in the modern West. We also heard a provocative, important paper by Professor Gao Xiang on the the intersection of Chinese traditions with European Enlightenment thought. Both papers addressed the shadows produced by a systematic, rationalist approach to society and culture.

Poster

The seminars continue today and tomorrow with our distinguished group of scholars. We all have problems of translation, and one of the most interesting aspects of our exchanges with the the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences is teasing out the subtle meanings in our different approaches to what at first seem like common research topics. At our first meeting in Beijing in the fall of 2011 we discussed the status and function of tradition, and the papers for this meeting are all the more interesting when seen in the context of the Enlightenment’s battle with an attachment to the past.

There are several scholars of great distinction presenting their work today and tomorrow, but I can’t help but single out our very own Vera Schwarcz, Freeman Professor of History & East Asian Studies, who has been working on the Chinese Enlightenment for decades. Her historical work has earned her international distinction, as her teaching has garnered her the lifelong appreciation of her students here at Wesleyan.

Speaking of students, one of the most impressive parts of the day yesterday was the performance of our student translators. Through their efforts, we all overcame the language barriers!

 

 

Profiles in Academic Innovation

Two of Wesleyan’s many centers of interdisciplinary scholarship have new leaders who are doing exciting things:

Jennifer Tucker is now the interim director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life. Jennifer is a historian with deep interests in the intersection of visual and scientific cultures, paying especial attention to how this intersection is often mediated by questions of gender and sexuality. She has long been a member of the Science in Society Program and also currently chairs Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies (FGSS). You probably have seen her op-ed on the “science” behind Congressman Akin’s notions of pregnancy and rape, and she is eager to see even more Wes faculty (especially women faculty) contribute to the public sphere through essays, op-eds and editorials. I’ve gotten to know Jennifer better because of our mutual interest in the intersections of photography and history. Nature Exposed, her book on Victorian science and photography, is already a key text in the field, and she recently edited an issue of History and Theory devoted to photography, history and philosophy. At the Allbritton Center, Jennifer will be developing the foundations and frameworks for planning future programs that link the campus to the most pressing issues in the public sphere.

 

Ethan Kleinberg began his stint as director of the Center for the Humanities this summer. Ethan is also a historian, with a joint appointment in the College of Letters. I first encountered his work many years ago when he was doing research for his excellent book, Generation Existential, a study of the impact of Heidegger on 20th century French intellectual history. In addition to his work in history and COL, at Wesleyan Ethan has been one of the creators of the Certificate in Social, Cultural and Critical Theory, and he is the Executive Editor of History and Theory. Ethan intends to build on the great tradition at the Center for dynamic interdisciplinary research and teaching, ensuring that Wesleyan’s humanities programs remain a crucial node in the networks of international scholarship. Students, faculty, and distinguished visitors make the Center for the Humanities a place where knowledge happens — where scholarship gets jump-started. You can learn more about Ethan’s vision for the Center here.

There are many faculty across the campus doing exciting things across the disciplines — from the College of the Environment to the Center for East Asian Studies. These two new leaders will surely add to our distinctive educational experience on campus — and beyond!

Freeman Travels 2010

For the last week I’ve been in Japan and Korea with Graeme Freeman from the Freeman Foundation and Terri Overton from Admissions interviewing students for our Freeman Scholarship program. The program has now been going for 15 years, and it has brought to Wesleyan many exceptionally talented young people from 11 different Asian countries. Year in, year out they arrive on campus with a thirst for learning, faith in a liberal arts education, and an extraordinary capacity for focused, challenging work.

This was my first trip to Tokyo and Seoul, and it also included a number of alumni gatherings. I had the pleasure of meeting Katsuhiko Hiyama ’60 (Kay) who is hoping to come back for his 50th reunion this year. Kay described to me how his Wesleyan education has been a lifelong resource for him as he worked in four different continents, and he also shared with me his love of jazz. I also met some recent alums, including Joyce Haejung Park ‘04, who majored in math and is now working for Chartis in Seoul. Although Sam Paik ‘90 and Professor Jung-Ho Kim ‘85 are frequent visitors to campus, it was great to see them on their home turf. And I met with alumni working in media, finance, education and public service. All described to me how they continue to draw on their Wes education.

Interviewing Freeman finalists is a great cure for cynicism. These high school seniors display a love of learning and a devotion to education that is truly inspiring. Although in many cases they have already registered significant success in school (I’ve never met as many perfect 800 scorers in a short period of time), the dominant theme was the desire to explore new areas of inquiry and to encounter a variety of cultural experiences. They were interested in CSS, COL and the new College of the Environment, in addition to our offerings in music, science, philosophy, and, yes, even East Asian Studies. One young woman was led to her interest in the liberal arts through reading Aristotle on her own; another student was passionate about break dancing and religion. All in all they are an amazing group!

In my first year as President I set a goal of doubling the number of international students at Wesleyan. The financial crisis has slowed this down, but after a trip like this one, I am more convinced than ever that bringing students from outside the United States is a great benefit to them and to the entire Wes community.

Here are a couple of pictures of my recent alumni guides, who also helped out with interviews.

Alumni guides in Tokyo
Kohei Saito ’09 & Toshihiro Osaka ’09
Seoul Alumni Guides
Hyung Jin Choi ’07 & Sunho Hwang ’05

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Multi-Sensory Wes Weekend

 

At the end of the week I was privileged to hear an established scholar and an undergraduate full of enormous promise. The distinguished sociologist Richard Madsen was on campus to help the Freeman Center for East Asian Studies celebrate its 33rd anniversary. He gave an interesting lecture on contemporary religious movements in China, with special consideration given to their connection to economic growth and social mobility. The Freeman Center was packed with students and faculty. The next day I went to Hartford to hear Wesleyan senior Noah Hutton talk about a contemporary art exhibition he and some other students of John Paoletti’s had curated at the Wadsworth Atheneum. Noah gave a lucid and thoughtful description of some very challenging works. We’d met before because he is also a gifted jazz musician who plays at different Wes events.

Busted RosesThis has been an exceptionally busy weekend on the Wesleyan campus. Friday night started off with a graduate students’ retreat, at which I just stopped by to escort one of the main speakers, Joshua Boger ’73 (a Wesleyan trustee, scientist and CEO of Vertex Pharmaceuticals). Later that night Kari and I went to hear the Wesleyan-based geezer rock band, BUSTED ROSES, which was playing down at La Boca on Main Street. Dean Louise Brown was in great voice, and the rest of the band was cookin’!!

After a week sitting behind desks, I decided to spend as much of Saturday as possible out of doors. This meant that I would miss Social Justice Day, which the WSA had organized for Saturday. The program looked strong, and I hope those who chose to attend found it worthwhile. Out on the fields there were plenty of athletic contests at which one could cheer on the red and black. The men’s baseball team split an exciting double-header against Amherst. After watching Wes mount a great comeback rally in game one, I saw the mighty men’s lacrosse team have a wild second half against a tough Bowdoin squad. It became a rout. Sophie and I headed up to watch the Cardinal women overwhelm the softball team from Hamilton. It was cold out there on Long Lane, but watching softball made me feel that spring must be on the way.

While I was enjoying the sunshine and cheering on the home teams, a group of scholars were gathered together to consider multi-sensory art experiences and their history. Smith College and Wesleyan organized this art history conference with some leading scholars from around the country. I was lucky enough at the end of the day to hear Professor Katherine Kuenzli discuss her exhibition on Wagner and the visual arts, currently on display at the Davison Art Center. It’s a fine example of how our print collection can support and enhance innovative scholarship.

Last night Kari and I had a delightful dinner with some colleagues and Hayden White, who had been a teacher of mine some thirty years ago here at Wesleyan. Hayden is the most important philosopher of history in the United States, and one of the most original thinkers in the humanities that I have ever encountered. I was so pleased to be able to tell my former teacher that the university he remembered as a hotbed of new ideas and deep community was still inspiring great work in a context that is challenging yet deeply humane.

This week I have office hours Monday at 4 p.m. Students who don’t want to wait should call extension 3500 to sign up for a time.

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