TACOMA, Wash. – University of Puget Sound has been granted $50,000 by the Henry Luce Foundation to pilot a project that will immerse students in environmental studies in Southeast Asia and help the college develop new ties with scholars abroad.

The funding from the Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment (LIASE) will support Puget Sound in the creation of a model for ongoing summer field schools in Asia to be attended by Puget Sound students. A three-week, pilot study trip to Indonesia will take place in the summer of 2014 in collaboration with Indonesian university, government, and environmental partners. The generous grant was made as part of the university’s $125 million One [of a Kind] capital campaign.

“Puget Sound has developed strong academic investments in environmental study as well as deep connections with Southeast Asia owing to decades of effort involving our Asian Studies program, Pacific Rim study tour, foreign student exchanges, faculty research in the region, and expanding language and culture curricula,” said Puget Sound President Ronald R. Thomas. “This funding from LIASE brings these commitments together, and will allow our students and faculty to further deepen their experiential understanding of our Asian neighbors and work with them to address local and global environmental challenges. We are deeply grateful to the foundation for this tremendous opportunity.”

The initiative is underpinned by the college’s Asian Studies and Environmental Policy and Decision Making programs, its focus on international studies and civic engagement, its multidisciplinary approach to learning, and its creative and dedicated faculty members.

“The LIASE program aims to encourage faculty and students to think in new ways about Asia and the environment and to inspire ideas to address the pressing issues of this century,” said Helena Kolenda, program director for Asia at the Henry Luce Foundation. “We are very pleased to support this pilot of an imaginative field school program as envisaged by Puget Sound.”           

The first field school trip will take 10 students and two professors to locations around Indonesia next year. Puget Sound students enrolled in the program will take a spring 2014 semester of study of Indonesian culture and language on campus. Over the summer they will travel to Indonesia for study, research, service work, and cultural immersion for three weeks, directed by an environmentally-focused curriculum.

“We are hoping this will be a transformative experience for students and give them new perspectives on the world,” said Gareth Barkin, lead faculty coordinator for the project. “They will be doing their own small-scale research projects focused on environmental concerns, and hopefully they will leave Southeast Asia with a desire to return one day and build on their experience from the course.”

The pilot trip will include study visits to places including Tasikoki Wildlife Rescue and Education Center, where gibbons, hornbills, reptiles, and Macaque monkeys are among the animals rehabilitated into the wild; to Bunaken Island, where sea turtles and coral reefs proliferate; to the rainforests of Tangkoko Nature Reserve; and to Jogjakarta, where agriculture and human intervention have created conservation issues. Local students from Atma Jaya University will also be involved.

At its finish the field school pilot project will be assessed by the participating students and faculty, and by an independent evaluator. If the project is deemed a success and attracts further funding, it will be expanded to Thailand and Borneo, where Puget Sound professors have local contacts.

The four faculty coordinators, who will guide the project in coordination with six other Puget Sound professors, are Gareth Barkin, Luce Assistant Professor of Islamic Societies in Southeast Asia; Rachel DeMotts, associate professor of environmental policy and decision making; Nick Kontogeorgopoulos, professor of international political economy; and Peter Wimberger, professor of biology and director of the Slater Museum of Natural History.

The Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment (LIASE) aspires to encourage innovative approaches to Asian studies teaching and research at the undergraduate level through the lens of the environment and sustainable development. Exploration grants in 2013 were made to Bryn Mawr College, Earlham College, Illinois College, Swarthmore College, University of Puget Sound, and Whittier College.


Information sessions for students and faculty about Puget Sound’s 2014 field school project will be held during fall 2013. Watch the Asian Studies Web pages for more information at: www.pugetsound.edu/asianstudies

For more about the Henry Luce Foundation visit: http://www.hluce.org

Press photos of the 2012 student study abroad semester in Indonesia and Thailand are available upon request.

Photos on page: Top right: Jillian Whitehill ’14 in Thailand plows with a water buffalo (June 2012 field trip for an Asian Studies course); Above left: Students on a May 2012 Asian Studies field trip with Prof. Gareth Barkin learn to play instruments in a Javanese gamelan orchestra near Mount Merapi. Above left: Gareth Barkin, lead faculty coordinator for the Luce pilot project. 

Tweet this: Grant from @LuceFoundation sends @univpugetsound students to SE Asia for environmental studies and research. http://bit.ly/YWc8zm

Follow us on Twitter! www.twitter.com/univpugetsound