UI awarded grants to benefit South Asian, African curricula, study abroad

The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded University of Iowa International Programs two grants that will help expand on- and off-campus learning opportunities in South Asian studies for undergraduates and will create on-campus and study abroad courses in East Africa.

UI International Programs will provide matching funds and staff resources for the grants, which total $316,131.

“Our aim is to provide a global education for all UI students,” said Downing Thomas, associate provost and dean of UI International Programs. “This funding is a part of that ambition, by enabling us to take Iowa’s classrooms to the world, bringing critically important experiences within the reach of our students.”

Paul Greenough, an affiliated faculty member of the South Asian Studies Program in UI International Programs and a history professor in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), will direct “A New South Asian Undergraduate Curriculum for the 21st Century.”

This grant capitalizes on faculty expertise and student interest in South Asia, Greenough said. The core activities of the project include the development of new interdisciplinary courses, a student internship program and faculty development opportunities.

Greenough said this grant is especially important since Southeast Asia has shown itself to have exceptional momentum in the economic sector. India, the world’s biggest democracy, will play an increasingly prominent role in the 21st century world of economics and politics as well, he added.

“This grant will enable students to engage in participatory learning experiences embracing contemporary problems, in settings where changes in economic activity, gender practices, health care delivery, technology transfer, environmental struggles, media innovation, rights activism and more, regularly occur,” Greenough said, “while maintaining the university’s core liberal arts offerings in Hindi, Sanskrit, anthropology, geography, history, journalism, literature and religion.”

Greenough said the grant will give students new experiences and insights into urgent aspects of contemporary India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka including caste politics, environmental studies, health care, natural disasters, Bollywood film, prize-winning novelists and women’s movements.

The second grant is titled, “Integrating Kiswahili Instruction, African Studies and Study Abroad at the University of Iowa,” and is directed by James Giblin, co-director of the African Studies Program in UI International Programs and a history professor in CLAS. The project will deepen curricular offerings, develop advanced courses in Kiswahili and offer students a new study abroad option in Africa.

“Through this award, the African Studies Program will utilize the UI’s lengthy experience in teaching Kiswahili, its faculty strength in East Africa and the many contacts possessed by UI faculty in Tanzania and elsewhere in East Africa, to provide both on-campus and study abroad courses that will give undergraduates an intensive experience in learning about language and culture in East Africa,” Giblin said.

The UI has had few study abroad programs of its own in sub-Saharan Africa, and this project will provide another option, Thomas said. The central component of this grant creates the opportunity for students to study in Tanzania during summer and winter breaks. Courses in Kiswahili and various aspects of eastern African culture will be given on-campus by UI faculty who will also travel with the students to the region. The grant will also enable the creation of a new evening introductory course in African Studies for students in the health sciences who intend to work or study in eastern Africa.

UI International Programs’ staff will provide administrative support for both new initiatives.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services.

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