The Center for Asian and Pacific Studies (CAPS) was established at the University of Iowa (UI) in recognition of the steadily increasing interdependence of the nations of the world, and in anticipation of a new Century of the Pacific - a century in which much of the world's political and economic center of gravity is expected to shift toward the countries along the Asian rim of the Pacific. Like other area centers at the UI, CAPS seeks to enrich the intellectual life of faculty, students, and the community at large; to enhance research, teaching, and outreach activities at the UI; and to encourage collaboration and exchange among members of the wider CAPS community. Like the university of which it is a part, CAPS understands itself to have teaching, research, and service missions.
Within its teaching mission, CAPS supports ongoing educational programs for both undergraduates and graduate students at the UI in areas dealing with East Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific, and encourages curricular and programmatic innovations designed to strengthen and expand those programs.
In its research mission, CAPS seeks and offers support for research projects designed to generate new knowledge about the societies, institutions, and cultures of East Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific, and tries to create reservoirs of expertise on these regions of the world at the UI, as well as facilitates interactions between scholars in these areas worldwide and the UI community.
As its service mission, the Center disseminates information about the nations of East Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific - their peoples, societies, cultures, political systems, economic opportunities, and everyday lives - to interested persons within and outside the University, and maintains ties with an active network of scholars around the state and beyond.
The Center was established in 1986 with the help of a generous endowment gift from E & M Charities and the Stanley family of Muscatine, Iowa, and with the initiative of then University of Iowa President James Freedman. Ever since, the Center has enjoyed strong support from the successive presidents and administrations, and different programs at the University of Iowa.
In its first stage of development, the Center concentrated on strengthening the infrastructure by creating additional faculty and staff positions, by helping various units of the University recruit outstanding faculty, by increasing library funds for Asian collection, and by consolidating and promoting international programs already in existence.
The Center then launched a new initiative, whose major goal was to create and maintain a preeminent interdisciplinary social science program. The focus on social science was designed to take advantage of unusual strengths of the existing faculty and to emphasize Iowa's unique combination of emphases in order to complement established programs on East Asia at other universities. The most important component of the initiative was to increase the number of distinguished chairs from one to three by seeking additional funds from East Asian sources.
The Present and Future
CAPS was instrumental in the appointment of an anthropologist, Sonia Ryang, as the C. Maxwell & Elizabeth M. Stanley Family and Korea Foundation Scholar of Korean Studies. CAPS later filled the position of the Hua Hsia and Stanley Foundation Chair Professor of Chinese studies with Prof. Wenfang Tang who started the position in 2009. Currently, a search is underway for the C. Maxwell and Elizabeth M. Stanley Family Chair of Asian Studies, which will be in Anthropology, Communication Studies, History, or the School of Journalism & Mass Communication, with a special emphasis on transnational and cross-cultural topics.
Since its inception, CAPS has each semester brought in a number of speakers from various disciplines to give talks to the wider CAPS community on East and Southeast Asian topics. Speakers are invited at the suggestion of CAPS faculty and often also participate in undergraduate and graduate classes.
CAPS also has a long tradition of hosting visiting researchers from East Asia who often stay for an entire academic year at the UI to carry out their own research projects and interact with CAPS faculty.
Historically, CAPS has focused on East Asia, reflecting existing strengths at the UI. However, recently there has been efforts underway to build up Southeast Asian studies at the UI and, and CAPS expect in the future to increase its engagement with the regions of Southeast Asia and the Pacific.