Asian Studies: Awakening A Sleeping Giant

At few times in history has there been a greater need for increased cooperation and understanding between the United States and Asia than today. Given the rise of the region in the global economy and political landscape, the two are inextricably linked. College enrollments in Asian language classes have increased dramatically over the last five years, and universities across the country are rushing to start Asian Studies programs.

Furman, which introduced its first Asian Studies course four decades ago, is one of the leaders in this field. The university began offering Chinese and Japanese language courses in the late 1980s. In the early 1990s, study away programs to China and Japan were added, giving Furman a considerable head start over its competitors.

Today, with 20 professors representing six departments, the Asian Studies program is the largest of any liberal arts college in the South. It offers an array of study away opportunities, a robust language program, and a growing commitment to educating the broader community.

Read the blog written by our Intrepid Furman alumni in Tibet

Kate Kaup, chair of the Asian Studies department, came of intellectual age as an undergraduate at Princeton during the Tiananmen Square protests and massacre of 1989. She later earned her doctorate at the University of Virginia in government and foreign affairs, with field work in China. She now holds the James B. Duke Chair of Asian Studies and Political Science at Furman.

“We’ve had a dynamic department since the late 1980s, but the program really surged forward with Ravenel Curry’s $1 million gift in 2004,” she says. “From there, success has bred more success.” Nearly a decade later, Asian Studies’ growth is a reflection of the passion for their field reflected in the work of Kaup and her colleagues, and in the commitment of many donors who have recognized the value of the program.

As the campaign enters its final phase, sights are set on:

  • Establishing a faculty position in Chinese sociology or anthropology.
  • Permanently funding the Summer China Experience, Furman’s popular two-week trip to China for incoming freshmen.
  • Endowing a Japan Summer Experience to match the Summer China Experience.

Place of Peace Website

Students Studying In India in Fall of 2011

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Initiative Leadership

  • Carrie Reding Tucker '71
  • Carolyn Greenway Bishop '71
  • Ravenel Curry '63
  • Mike Harley '82
  • Carl Kohrt '65
  • Jason Richards '01
  • Todd Ruppert
  • Knox White
  • John Yates
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My Furman Story

After graduating from Furman in 2006, Christy Campbell spent a year in Suzhou, China teaching at Suzhou University as well as working at the Shangri-La Hotel. At the end of the school year, she moved to Shanghai to work in the communications department of the American Chamber of Commerce Shanghai. Looking to transition into the development field, in the fall of 2007 she enrolled in the London School of Economics and graduated with a master's degree in Social Policy and Development. Upon graduating, she took a temporary assignment with the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development in Geneva, Switzerland, doing research on migration within Southeast Asia. Despite the great snowboarding, she was itching to move back to Asia, so in June 2009, she moved to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to work for Hagar International — a social enterprise/NGO that works with trafficked and abused women and children. Working within the larger picture, she is currently looking into ways to start regional support for social enterprises that focus on social justice and economic empowerment.