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Asian Studies Elevated

Eric Hyer, Asian studies coordinator

The Asian studies coordinator at BYU’s Kennedy Center, Professor Eric Hyer also has a shared responsibility with the university’s greatest rival: the University of Utah. Hyer is one of two directors of the Intermountain Consortium for Asian and Pacific Studies (IMCAPS), which is funded by a Title VI grant as a National Resource Center (NRC) and is run by both BYU and the U—turning so-called enemies into collaborators.

Though this grant is usually awarded to a single university, Hyer joined forces with his counterpart at the U, Janet Theiss, to apply for the grant in 2010. It was renewed in 2014.

When IMCAPS originally secured the grant, Theiss stated, “This is the most exciting thing to happen to Asian Studies in this state ever.”1 Hyer appreciates that the U handles most of the administrative side of IMCAPS because it frees him to focus on his favorite part: disbursing funds for programs.

In addition to the Title VI grant, both universities receive Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) monies for student scholarships. BYU receives $234,500 each academic year for FLAS scholarships in addition to an annual 100K from the NRC grant. Hyer noted that since tuition is lower at BYU than at most other universities, he can award more scholarships than other schools can.

“Each year we fully fund about twenty-five students and give summer scholarships to six or seven students for intensive language study abroad,” he said. “FLAS is the most gratifying grant since it feels so good to tell students we can give them a scholarship to cover tuition and a generous stipend.”

The NRC grant also provides opportunities for students to study less-commonly taught languages (LCTLs) on campus. “The NRC grant is great to fund teachers for LCTLs like Indonesian, Hindi, Thai, etc.,” Hyer stated. The grant allows the university to offer these classes consistently, even if few students register. This is a boon, since returned missionaries create a high demand for LCTLs at BYU. “BYU offers more of these LCTLs than most any other university in the United States,” said Hyer.

Other benefits of the NRC grant include helping BYU expand its Asian library collection, teaching workshops in the community, and funding cultural performances.

1. Quoted in Brian Maffly, “Rival Schools Join Hands to Win Major Grant,” Salt Lake Tribune, 7 September 2010.

About the Coordinator
Hyer, an associate professor of political science at BYU, researches China’s foreign relations with its neighbors. He has published many articles about China’s arms sales, territorial disputes, and nationalities issues. His first book, The Pragmatic Dragon: China’s Grand Strategy and Boundary Settlements, was published last year. He is also coproducer of two documentaries: From the Masses to the Masses: An Artist in Mao’s China (2005) and Helen Foster Snow: Witness to Revolution (2000).

IMCAPS’s NRC FellowsUniversity of Chicago
BYU is part of a prodigious list of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
schools that host a National Resource Center: University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
Columbia UniversityUniversity of Kansas
Indiana University BloomingtonUniversity of Michigan
Michigan State UniversityUniversity of Hawaii at Manoa
The Ohio State UniversityUniversity of Oregon
Stanford UniversityUniversity of Southern California
University of California, BerkeleyUniversity of Utah
University of California, Los AngelesUniversity of Washington

BYU’s Asian Cultural Offerings
IMCAPS has enabled BYU to provide lectures, symposia, conferences, museum exhibits, film series, and fine arts performances focused on Asia: One exhibit at BYU’s Museum of Art showcased Indian and Pakistani quilts while another combined with a BYU symposium to highlight the imagery and faith of Hindu worship. BYU hosted part of a lecture series called “Walk in U.S., Talk on Japan,” which was coordinated by Jeanette Misaka of the Japanese American Citizens League in Salt Lake City. Chinese filmmaker Zhao Qi screened his documentary The Chinese Mayor—which details the destruction and reconstruction of the Chinese city Datong—at BYU while he was in the state for the Sundance Film Festival. The grant has also brought a variety of performances to campus, such as Shanghai acrobats, classical Chinese music, and Mongolian singers.

NRC Grant at Work
BYU’s annual portion of the grant benefits the following BYU programs: the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages, which teaches Chinese, Japanese, and Korean; the Center for Language Studies, which teaches Cebuano, Hindi, Indonesian, Tagalog, Thai, and Vietnamese; the Kennedy Center; Asian library acquisitions; and the Asian studies program. In addition, the grant supports a series of workshops, such as topical workshops for faculty, a 2016 curriculum workshop on Islam in Asia, and pedagogy and curriculum workshops provided to Utah Valley University and local community colleges. The grant is also helping develop BYU courses on new religious movements, Southeast Asian music, and economic and social mobilization in Southeast Asia.