Asian Studies at EKU

“If you want to understand the world,” Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Nicholas Kristof once said, “you need to understand Asia.”

A new Interdisciplinary Asian Studies Program at Eastern Kentucky University is helping students do just that.

The program, which offers an academic minor and certificate, critically examines the cultures, societies, languages, histories, religions and politics of Asians and peoples of Asian descent throughout the world, according to Director Dr. Minh Nguyen.

“An understanding of Asia enhances not only students’ understanding of the world,” Nguyen said, “but also their prospects for employment in a wide variety of fields, including but not limited to international trade and industry, teaching and research, translation and interpretation, foreign policy and diplomacy, human rights and development, and immigration and social service.”

Courses encompass a broad range of disciplines, including Comparative Literature, Criminal Justice, Cultural Studies, Dance, English, Exercise and Sport Science, Foreign Languages, Geography, History, Justice Studies, Philosophy, Politics, Psychology, Religion and Women and Gender Studies.

“Because of its interdisciplinary nature and broadly humanistic outlook, (the program) is poised to strengthen the University’s liberal arts programs,” Nguyen said. “It is also poised to contribute to the development and graduation of informed, critical and creative thinkers who communicate effectively, which is the theme of the University’s Quality Enhancement Plan. In terms of the recruitment, development and retention of not only high-quality students but also high-quality faculty, it helps make the University more competitive, both locally and nationally.”

Coursework will be augmented with enrichment activities such as lectures, discussions, workshops, performances (in music, theater and dance), art exhibitions, film screenings, field trips and social events.

“We aim to make our program as educational, fun and engaging as possible,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen said interest on campus and among prospective students is high. “Asia-centered courses in various disciplines from history to religion have strong or healthy enrollment. This Interdisciplinary Asian Studies Program provides students and faculty an opportunity to integrate Asia-centered courses in various disciplines into a coherent area of study. Also, events focused on Asia attract large audiences,” as evidenced by several well-attended presentations in recent years.

The new program, housed in the Office of University Programs, is the work of almost 30 faculty and staff members from various academic programs and units, Nguyen said, “with the critical input of and support from President Michael Benson, Provost Janna Vice, Dean of University Programs Sara Zeigler and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences John Wade. I am profoundly grateful to each and every one of them for their contributions and support and I look forward to continued collaboration with them and with other faculty, staff, students and academic leadership to make this program a success.”

Nguyen, a professor of philosophy, associate director of the Honors Program and coordinator of National and International Scholarships and Fellowships, joined the EKU faculty in 2003 and has served the past four years as coordinator of the University’s Chautauqua Lecture Series, a post that EKU colleague Dr. Erik Liddell now assumes.

A Vietnam native, Nguyen came to the United States in 1984 and became a U.S. citizen in 1989. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, a master’s degree in philosophy and a doctoral degree in philosophy from Columbia University.