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Wittenberg Celebrates 40 Years Of East Asian Studies Program

March 17, 2010  
 Filed in Campus Headlines, Headlines, Humanities

Gene Swanger

Professor Emeritus Gene Swanger will speak during the EAS 40th Anniversity celebration March 20.

Springfield, Ohio – Wittenberg University’s acclaimed East Asian Studies Program (EAS) celebrates its 40th anniversary from 1-5 p.m. Saturday, March 20, in the atrium and Ness Family Auditorium of Hollenbeck Hall.

The celebration will include reflections by Professor Emeritus of Religion Gene Swanger, who started the program, and Professor Emeritus of History Jim Huffman. It will also include a Taiko drum performance, a student lion dance, a student playing the koto (Japanese stringed instrument), informal reflections by alums and a reception. University President Mark H. Erickson will be there to make an address and a reception will follow.

Founded in 1970 at a time when very small percentage of liberal arts schools offered such a program, Wittenberg’s EAS program stands as one of the preeminent academic programs in the nation.

Currently 15 faculty members teach courses to 40 majors and 7 minors, with more than a dozen seniors enrolled in the Senior Seminar class.

“Part of the reason that we have been able to establish such a program is the foresight and dedication of the founders, Jim (Professor Emeritus of History Huffman), Stan (Professor Emeritus of Languages Mickel) and Gene Swanger (Professor Emeritus of Religion and founder of the EAS Program),” said Jennifer Oldstone-Moore, director of the program. “This is really true because not only did they have the idea, but they went for grants to expand the program, had many cultural events they added, and also pushed themselves to learn and teach about East Asia, not just their own expertise. Thus you had Stan Mickel, language professor and expert on Chinese oracle bones (c. 1300 BC), teaching about modern Japan in EAS 100.

“Another reason we’ve been able to grow is university support, combined with grants from Freeman, Luce, Japan Foundation and The Ohio Humanities Council. Administrative vision has been very important.”

The grants have generated enthusiasm and interest that change the way the program is viewed, Oldstone-Moore explained. “In addition, several study abroad programs led by Wittenberg faculty have been developed,” she said. “Two are traveling this year to the Silk Road and Tokyo.”

“We are making a big transition to a new generation of EAS,” Oldstone-Moore continued. “First, there is the East Asian Institute, which is a means to connect EAS program/students with internships and experts outside the college. Erick Kish, director, has been working on these internships. He has also been working on an alumni mentoring program that will connect current students with alums all over the world.

“These programs have a wide range of positive effects, from informal advice and counseling to career ideas. The Institute is also sponsoring Executives in Residence programs – bringing in specialists as resources on campus. The first, Toshi Amino, is coming to Wittenberg at the end of March.”

In addition, work is ongoing to create Chinese and Japanese language majors, which will complement EAS.

“Already, many students double major in a language and EAS,” Oldstone-Moore said. “Even when students choose the language major, it solidifies and cements the strength of our program. Being able to offer advanced language training in both Chinese and Japanese is a distinctive feature of our program.

“Our alums truly do just about everything. Professionally, some go on to top grad schools and university positions. Others go into business, banking, law, social work, real estate, teaching, journalism, industry, government service. I think that this range is not unusual for liberal arts grads, but it is really marked in EAS since we are interdisciplinary.”

Written By: Phyllis Eberts
Photo By: Robert Gantt

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