Five College Center for East Asian Studies: Past, Present and Future
Anne Prescott, Director
The Center for East Asian Studies was established in the mid-1970s as an Amherst/Smith College cooperative with Ray Moore (History & Asian Languages, Amherst) as the original director. Built on the foundation of strong historical ties between Amherst, MA and East Asia (particularly Japan), today 76 faculty members in 16 disciplines, as well as an East Asia librarian, are affiliated with the Center, a constituency that rivals the top East Asia programs in the U.S. in its breadth and depth.
In its early years, the Center’s activities focused on programming for faculty members and students of the two founding institutions, Amherst and Smith. To create a more robust community of scholars, the Five College Center for East Asian Studies was formed in the early 1980s. In 1983 the Center was awarded its first U.S. Department of Education (DOE) grant. This enabled Amherst and Smith to seed faculty lines in East Asian anthropology/sociology and in Japanese politics (a position eventually tenured); the grant also funded a faculty lecture series that included presentations in surrounding communities. These grants required K-12 outreach; the Center’s significant outreach mission dates from this first DOE grant. Subsequent grants from DOE allowed hiring a Japanese pedagogue to build Japanese language instruction across the five institutions, development of language instruction in Korean, creation of a new faculty line in Chinese philosophy based at Hampshire, and appointment of the Five College East Asian librarian based at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
The Center’s own library contains many unique pedagogical and resource items not available elsewhere. Library resources are available to all Five College faculty members and students as well as educators throughout New England. The collection is particularly rich in curriculum units, many of which are applicable to the post-secondary level. The Center also has a matchless collection of children’s books and realia, and one of the richest collections of films, documentaries and other media in the U.S.
Under the leadership of Kathleen Woods Masalski, the Center earned national recognition for its outreach program; in 1998 it became one of the national coordinating sites for the Freeman Foundation’s National Consortium for Teaching about Asia (NCTA). As such, the Center oversees K-12 educator professional development workshops in each of the six New England states and parts of New York and conducts K-12 educator study tours to East Asia each summer. As a result of the Center’s many and varied outreach programs, thousands of teachers and students have learned more about Asia.