Earlham will use funds from the Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment for a comprehensive student program focusing on risk management to mitigate natural disasters.

New Grant to Explore Asian Studies and the Environment

May 31, 2013

Earlham College is one of six recipients of a $50,000 exploration grant from the Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment (LIASE).

Earlham will use its funds to lay the groundwork for a comprehensive student program focusing on risk management to mitigate natural disasters.  The initial, 16-month grant makes Earlham eligible to apply for a subsequent $400,000 four-year grant to fully implement the program.

“The grant fits well into two of Earlham’s traditional strengths — Japanese Studies and science education — and one of its emerging initiatives — environmental science. We have wonderful international opportunities for science students, but this will be our first science initiative in East Asia," says Gary DeCoker, professor and convener of Japanese Studies and Director of Japan Study.

“The goal of the program is to better understand the complex choices that societies confront when facing risk.  Using Japan and the United States as case studies, we will explore cultural, political, and economic factors that may lead to differing responses to the risk of earthquakes and tsunami,” says DeCoker.

Experiential Opportunities

Professor Gary DeCoker says this program will help first-year students discover areas of interest that they can pursue throughout their college careers.Academic Dean Greg Mahler notes that the experiential dimension of Earlham’s education is one of its key strengths, and this grant will provide new experiential opportunities for students.

Spring 2014 will include four linked, first-year courses in the Earlham Scholar program.  Ten students who are selected for this “learning community” will have the option of participating in summer research projects and a 2015 three-week May Term research trip, spending time in Ocean Shores, Washington, and Tanohata, Japan, to learn about the geology and geography of the areas and their potential for earthquakes and tsunamis.

A group of Earlham faculty members will participate in an on-campus workshop and a similar trip to the Pacific Northwest and the Tohoku coast of Japan, the site of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

 “The courses for first-year students will help them identify areas of research interest that will carry them through their four years at Earlham,” DeCoker says. “In addition, it will provide the opportunity to test their knowledge on-site in areas that are prone to earthquakes and tsunami.”

Courses include Japanese language, physical geology, risk management, and Japanese culture and the environment.

New Faculty to Enhance Historically Strong Program

“This year’s hiring has significantly expanded the level of Asian expertise on campus — in anthropology, in environmental studies, in languages and literature,” Mahler says. “And with curricular changes on campus, we will have many more opportunities for student pursuit of Asian Studies and for faculty research activity.”

Andy Moore, associate professor of geology, and DeCoker spearheaded the grant proposal. Moore spent three years in Sendai, Japan, at a tsunami research institute. Other participating faculty include Japanese Studies new hire Eric Cunningham, an environmental anthropologist, Becky Jestice, assistant professor of business and nonprofit management who has experience in risk management, and Japanese language faculty Akiko Kakutani and Yasumi Kuriya.

“And Nan Ma Hartmann, who will join the Japanese Studies faculty in January 2014 will be instrumental in helping us extend the program to China,” DeCoker says. Possible case-study pairings include Nanjing, China, and the Miami River basin east of Richmond, with a focus on flooding, and Hong Kong and New Orleans, focusing on cyclones.

The Henry Luce Foundation was established in 1936 by the late Henry R. Luce, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time Inc. to honor his parents who were missionary educators in China. The Foundation seeks to bring important ideas to the center of American life, strengthen international understanding, and foster innovation and leadership in academic, policy, religious, and art communities. 

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