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Bard College Awarded $400,000 Luce Grant for Interdisciplinary Initiative to Improve Study of Environmental Issues in Asia

Grant Includes Funding for Undergraduate Research Opportunities in Asia, Such as Forest Conservation and Water Quality in China, Organic Agriculture in Japan, and Sustainable Development Policies in Korea

Darren O'Sullivan
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.— The Henry Luce Foundation has awarded Bard College a four-year, $400,000 Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment (LIASE) grant to increase and enhance the interdisciplinary study of environmental and sustainability issues in Asia across the undergraduate curricula at Bard’s campuses at Annandale-on-Hudson and Simon’s Rock, and in the M.S. programs at the Bard Center for Environmental Policy (Bard CEP). The four-year grant will fund Bard’s Environment and Community in East Asia Initiative, which aims to develop new courses and enhance existing ones with a focus on the environment in Asia; expand research opportunities for undergraduate students to study environmental issues in China, Japan, and Korea, including preparatory language courses; foster increased cooperation between faculty and students at Bard, Simon’s Rock, and Bard CEP with higher education institutions in Asia; host a two-day course development conference on environmental change and sustainability challenges in Asia; and provide graduate scholarships to students from Asia to study at Bard CEP.

“It is not possible to fully understand environmental challenges without coming to grips with the extremely rapid economic growth, environmental disasters, and environmental success stories experienced in East Asia,” said Bard CEP Director Eban Goodstein, stressing that the LIASE grant will support the efforts of American students and researchers to better understand the future global implications of events unfolding in East Asia today. “We have all seen pictures of the killer smogs in Beijing and Shanghai, but Chinese coal and oil emissions could drive the temperature of the entire planet up several degrees,” said Goodstein. “At the same time, Japan and South Korea have experienced remarkable environmental progress. The LIASE grant will give Bard students and faculty the opportunity to learn firsthand the challenges and opportunities emerging from this critical part of the world.”

The LIASE funding will enable Bard to pursue a series of interlinked activities, including course development, research, publication, and ongoing collaboration with other institutions and individuals in the United States and Asia interested in teaching about ecological change and contemporary environmental issues in Asia. The ultimate goal will be to create a lasting intellectual foundation for Bard’s research and teaching engagement on Asian environmental studies and increase the courses and research opportunities available to students in Bard’s Asian Studies and Environmental and Urban Studies Programs, as well as to science, social science, and arts and literatures students who have an interest in focusing on environmental issues in Asia. Specifically, Bard’s Environment and Community in East Asia initiative will create new undergraduate field classes in China, Japan, and Korea, and create at least 12 courses with new content on Asian environmental issues, including a minimum of six new courses with a focus on these issues and six existing courses with significant new components devoted to Asia and the environment. The field courses include opportunities for Bard and Simon’s Rock students to do intensive research on forest conservation and water quality in China, organic agriculture in Japan, and sustainable development policies in Korea.

“I am thrilled that Bard has received such generous support from the Luce Foundation to strengthen our collaboration with research and educational institutions in East Asia,” said Chris Coggins, professor of geography and Asian studies at Simon’s Rock and one of the initiative’s coordinators. “We are moving swiftly to build new relationships and strengthen existing ties with colleagues in China, Korea, and Japan, and our students are already benefiting from these efforts.”

In China, for example, Coggins said that Bard students and faculty, working with researchers from China, will be able to conduct field research on the relationship between village fengshui forests (forest patches protected by local custom) and stream-water quality in southern provinces such as Fujian and Jiangxi, while also focusing on regional factors that affect the water quality in China’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Poyang. “Students are learning how to conduct research on the sociocultural dimensions of village forest preservation traditions, as well as how to collect field data on environmental variables related to forest conservation, biodiversity, and water quality,” Coggins said. “This three-year summer field program is a unique opportunity for students and faculty to engage in a multidisciplinary project that will benefit community forest conservation efforts across China and shed light on the relationship between forest coverage and water quality. This is a crucial subject in a country where forests and the watersheds that they protect have been severely degraded over the course of centuries in many areas, and where government bodies and citizens are increasingly interested in resource conservation.”

The Henry Luce Foundation’s Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment (LIASE) aspires to encourage innovative approaches to Asian studies teaching and research at the undergraduate level through the lens of the environment and sustainable development. By inviting faculty and students to cross geographic and disciplinary boundaries, LIASE opens opportunities to increase the capacity of Asian studies faculty to teach about critical topics affecting the region; and expand Asia-related content across the curriculum.

Traditionally structured around the disciplines of history, religion, anthropology, philosophy, and language and literature, Asian studies remains housed primarily within the humanities. For various reasons, students in other fields, including the physical and biological sciences, mathematics, and economics, often have relatively fewer opportunities to learn about Asia. Yet Asia’s transformation is changing the ways in which knowledge about the region is developed and taught. Asia has become prominent in campus discussions on the environment because of the environmental challenges the region presents as well as the green technologies being developed there. Environmental challenges will require global cooperation and engagement by people with interdisciplinary training, comparative perspectives, and knowledge of local conditions and historical and cultural context. LIASE will provide incentives for faculty and students to think in new ways about Asia and the environment; energize Asian studies programs; and build bridges between the humanities, social sciences, physical and biological sciences, and policy and professional fields.

LIASE is intended to challenge undergraduate institutions to create fresh entry points for engagement with Asia within and beyond the walls of the classroom. It aims to bring Asia specialists and nonspecialists together to enrich the study of the region, broaden literacy about Asia among new constituencies on college campuses, and inspire ideas for future work and study on pressing issues of the 21st century. For more information on LIASE, please visit

Founded in 1860, Bard College is a four-year residential college of the liberal arts and sciences. The campus, a fusion of two historic riverfront estates, is located in the Hudson Valley. The College offers the bachelor of arts degree with concentrations in more than 40 academic programs in four divisions: Arts; Languages and Literature; Science, Mathematics, and Computing; and Social Studies; and a five-year B.A./B.S. degree in economics and finance. Through a five-year program with The Bard College Conservatory of Music, students earn a B.Music degree and a B.A. in a field other than music.

Bard offers the following graduate degrees: master of fine arts; master of arts in curatorial studies; master of arts, master of philosophy, and doctor of philosophy in decorative arts, design history, and material culture; master of science in economic theory and policy; master of science in environmental policy and in climate science and policy; master of business administration in sustainability; master of arts in teaching; and master of music in vocal arts and in conducting. Several graduate dual degrees also are offered.

Bard’s campus is a center from which students can explore the rich natural and cultural life of the Hudson Valley. Within a half-hour’s drive of the campus are many of the great Hudson Valley mansions and historic sites.

With its deep commitment to civic engagement, Bard is a private institution that acts in the public interest. Bard undertakes and fosters initiatives that reflect its principles—innovation, ambition, risk taking, and a fundamental belief in the link between liberal education and democracy. What distinguishes Bard is its willingness and ability to promote and sustain long-term projects that engage its students, faculty, and administrators with some of the most important issues facing society. Whether in social service organizations in the Hudson Valley; in prisons; in high schools in New York, Newark, and New Orleans; or in universities in Russia, Berlin, the West Bank, and Kyrgyzstan, Bard is always innovating and engaging. 

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This event was last updated on 05-01-2014