WU awarded grant to enhance sustainability, Asian programs

by University Communications,

With the help of a $400,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, Willamette University is implementing a new program to develop intercultural understanding and communication through the study of Asia and environmental sustainability.

The grant is funding curriculum and faculty development, place-based learning in Japan, symposia and workshops on Asia and environmental sustainability, and the Zena Sustainability Institute — a summer program for Willamette students and students in the American Studies Program.

Willamette will work with its long-time partners, Tokyo International University and Tokyo International University of America, to administer “Sustainability and the Pacific Rim.” The activities generated through the program will serve nearly 1,800 students and 180 faculty members during the next four years.

“I’m thrilled by the opportunity to engage students and faculty more deeply in the study of Asia through the lens of environmental sustainability,” Willamette President Steve Thorsett says.

“Willamette’s historic roots in the Northwest — and our enduring relationship with the Pacific Rim — provide for a unique, place-based connection to Asia that enables students to understand connections between local and global spaces.”

At the heart of the program is the integration of disciplines, faculty and students at Willamette, TIU and TIUA. It includes language study at Willamette and abroad. Lesson plans concerning environmental issues and how they relate to Asia will be incorporated into Willamette courses, and yearly speakers will address the student body in lectures.

Ron Loftus, co-director of the grant and chairman of the Asian Studies program at Willamette, says he’s excited by the opportunities students and faculty will receive through the grant.

“During the next several years, we expect to see the curriculum adapt and many more students and faculty to engage in collaborative activities to better understand sustainability,” he says. “This, in turn, will make all of us more effective global citizens who are better prepared to navigate an increasingly globalized world.”

The Luce award comes on the heels of a $50,000 exploratory grant awarded to Willamette by the Henry Luce Foundation in 2012 to support innovative teaching and learning about Asia and sustainability.

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.