New Asian Studies Program

Hanna Barker

Co-Commentary/Art Director

Students, faculty, and community members filled Alumni Hall on Nov. 8 to watch Kenny Endo’s 35th Anniversary Celebration Concert, “Gateway- ‘Ma’ vs. Groove.” This event was presented by McDaniel College’s brand new Asian Studies Program.

“When I heard [Kenny Endo] was touring again this fall, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to bring him back for a ‘kick off’ event for the new major,” said Theatre Arts professor Elizabeth van den Berg. “I first heard Kenny Endo play when I was in Hawaii on a fellowship designed to help professors incorporate study of Japan into undergraduate curriculum.”

Endo, a Taiko artist, performed a few years ago on campus. This time, he also did lecture demos for four different classes, World Music, Japanese Art, Global Drumming, and Theatre Appreciation, according to Professor van den Berg.

“For those who have never experienced Taiko and Japanese traditional instruments, hopefully it was an eye opening experience,” said Professor van den Berg, “For those that have, I hope that Kenny’s style was an interesting new take on Japanese music.”

Kenny Endo and his ensemble received a standing ovation at the end of the performance, and lingered in the lobby to autograph programs.

“His performance was particularly inspiring to me, personally, because I’m a drummer, and I’ve never seen any percussion performance before that intense and disciplined,” said sophomore Ryan Powell. “I’ll say that the performance definitely influenced my choosing to take the Eastern Asia history class next semester, and I’m also taken Asian Approaches to Acting with Ron Miller, which I’m very excited about.”

The concert succeeded in raising awareness and increasing interest in the new Asian Studies Program. With this program, McDaniel College will have even more opportunities to provide cultural events such as the Kenny Endo concert.

“The Program in Asian Studies provides students with a comprehensive, multi-cultural, and multi-disciplinary examination of the history, society, arts, cultural traditions, and significance of the nations and peoples of Asia, especially East Asia,” according to the Asian Studies information pamphlet.

The program, which is new this year, is still awaiting approval by the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC).

“Approval by the MHEC is hopefully going to happen soon,” said Dr. Susan Scott, who was instrumental in the development of the Asian Studies Program. “I had to fill out a 30-page report last summer to submit to this commission. We are waiting, as it is a long process, but I think there will not be any problem regarding the approval.”

Currently, about six students have declared the Asian Studies major, and there are a handful of minors as well. The major includes 32 required credits and 16 elective credits. It also incorporates three semesters of Mandarin Chinese.

“My dream was to establish an Asian Studies program here,” said Dr. Scott.

Dr. Scott did background work in Asian studies at Penn State University, but couldn’t major in it. She began teaching Japanese and Chinese art as a graduate student.

In 2006, McDaniel College applied for Faculty and Curriculum Development Seminar on Japan, sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania and the Freeman Foundation. Upon receiving admittance to this program, Dr. Scott, along with Dr. Robin Armstrong and Dr. Debra Lemke, participated in the seminar, which included a summer visit to Japan.

Dr. Qin Fang and Dr. Greg Alles teach courses that would be relevant to an Asian Studies Program as well, so with five faculty members able to contribute to the curriculum, McDaniel College had the academic means to support such a program.

“New majors are developed in several ways,” explained Dean Deborah Johnson-Ross, “Most often, students express an interest over time and ask for more and more classes in a particular field. This is how the Environmental Policy and Science major was developed.”

Dr. Scott noticed significant interest within the student body as her Asian art courses filled up every time they were offered. Additionally, with the Asian Community Coalition’s increased presence on campus and with Asian nations being featured more prominently in the news, students are realizing the importance of Asian Studies.

The major emphasizes the importance of a study abroad experience, although one is not required.

“Study abroad really does broaden students’ global perspective and allows them to see our own culture in a new light,” said Rose Falkner, Director of International and Off-Campus Study. “It’s a unique learning experience that extends far beyond the walls of the classroom.”

There are many approved study abroad programs available in Asia, with opportunities for diverse coursework and internships. A complete list is available at the International Programs Office.

Overall, the Asian Studies Program will prepare students for a variety of career paths. Dr. Scott emphasized the importance of attending graduate school in addition to completing the major, explaining that the deeper study will allow students to get jobs in the government, teaching higher education, the arts, international business, museum work, or archival work, for example.

“It depends on what other things the students are interested in,” said Dr. Scott.

In about a month, the MHEC should have finished the approval process. If the major is approved, Dr. Scott’s dream of establishing an Asian Studies Program will have come true.