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History of Asian Studies at UB


For twenty-four years the Asian Studies Program has been the nexus of Asia-focused research and study at the University at Buffalo. Our program opened in 1993 and by 1994 our long-running Asia@Noon Friday lecture series was established. Our Asian Studies newsletter was first published in 1995 and continues to be published today. Our curriculum was formalized in 1999 and our major established in 2003. Our first B.A. in Asian Studies was awarded in 2004. In 2018, we celebrate 25 productive and exciting years of Asian Studies at UB!


1995_chinoiserieDr. Thomas Burkman became the Asian Studies Program director in 1994 and began a busy 13 years of program leadership. The Asian Studies Program successfully competed for $450,000 from 1995-2000, including federal Title VI grants and private funding from the Japan Foundation among others. These funds hired Asia-focused faculty in several departments, including Communication, Comparative Literature, Philosophy, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. These funds also hired lecturers in Asian culture, language, and history topics and provided funding for UB faculty to develop new Asia-related courses. “Asian Studies in the Arts”, our second Title VI award, supported new faculty, visiting artists, and campus events. UB’s College of Arts and Sciences formed in 1998 and our program became a unit in the college. Several Asianist faculty joined UB from 1998 to 2000, in Geography and Art History.

2000_wordsmeaningUB hosted several Asia-themed conferences during the first years of the Asian Studies Program, starting our program’s tradition of cosponsoring Asia-related workshops, symposia, and conferences at UB. Some of these include:

  • The New York Conference on Asian Studies (NYCAS) in 1995
  • The 11th Annual Conference of the Association of Chinese Political Science in 1996
  • In 1997, a conference on Korean Unification cohosted with the Korean Graduate Association
  • The “Asian Perspectives on World Order in the 20th Century” in 1998, cohosted by our program and the Toronto and York Joint Centre for Asia Pacific Studies (JCAPS)
  • Also in 1998, our program cohosted the South Asian Human Rights Awareness Conference


2004_nohMany new Asia-focused faculty joined UB from 2001 to 2005 in Linguistics, English, Art History, History, Anthropology, Communication, Law, Women’s Studies, and Education.  Awards from the Korea Foundation, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Northeast Asia Council of the Association supported arts events and lectures on our campus. Nila T. Gnamm made a bequest of $250,000 to the APEC Studies Center in 2001.

The Asian Studies Program hosted or cohosted several conferences on and off campus during this period. Some of these include:

  • The “Words vs. Meaning: Art & Culture in 20th Century China” conference in 2000,
  • NYCAS again in 2003
  • The “Asia in the Classroom” workshop for elementary and secondary school teachers in 2003
  • Also in 2003, the Midwest Japan Seminar in Niagara Falls
  • The Roles and Representations of Walls in the Reshaping of Chinese Modernity conference in 2005


2009_rajThe Asian Studies Program continued to support Asia-related events on campus and fostered the development and hiring of Asianist scholars. New Asia-focused faculty joined UB in Sociology, American Studies, and History. We hosted a Fulbright Scholar in 2006 and visiting scholars in 2008. In 2009, our program received permission to establish a Confucius Institute at UB. New AS courses were developed, expanding our program’s offerings. In 2008, our graduating seniors presented their senior thesis projects in a public colloquium for the first time. This colloquium event is now held every fall and spring semester in which we have graduating seniors. In 2007, Dr. Thomas Burkman retired as Program Director to become our Director of Undergraduate Studies. Dr. Kristin Stapleton became our new Program Director.

The Dalai Lama visited in 2006. To prepare the UB community for his visit, the Asian Studies Program developed a course funded by the President’s Office titled “Tibet: Myth and Reality.” The course brought in North America’s leading scholars on Tibet. Other funding, from the National Committee on U.S.-China relations and the Title VI Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language program, supported South Asian language (Hindi) instruction and events and program development, including visiting lecturers, film screenings, and artistic presentations.

2010_-zakirThe Asian Studies Program hosted or cohosted several conferences on and off campus from 2006-2010. Some of these include:

  • In 2006, the Midwest Japan Seminar in Niagara Falls
  • In winter 2007-2008, the National Consortium for Teaching About Asia seminar
  • In spring 2008, the 12th Annual International Women’s Film Festival
  • The performance “Explosive Beats: Japanese Taiko Drumming” in 2008
  • Also in 2008, the second annual CHINA Town Hall program of the Committee on S.-China relations
  • With funds from the Baldy Center, our program sponsored “Law, Society, and Culture in Asian History” in 2009


2012_ghoshDr. Kristin Stapleton stepped down as Director in 2013, and Dr. EunHee Lee became the Acting Director in 2013 and the Director in 2014. New faculty focused on research in Asia join UB’s School of Architecture, History, and English Departments and our program hosted Fulbright scholars from India. In 2013, our program was awarded the NEH Summer Institute Grant for K-12 Teachers ($171,000) for “China and India: Comparisons and Connections.” Other cosponsored and hosted events include:

  • 2014_globalismThe workshop “Implementing Truth and Reconciliation: Comparative Lessons for Korea” in 2011
  • NYCAS for a third time in 2011 with the theme of “Asia at Work and Play”
  • With the Confucius Institute in 2012, “Beyond New Confucianism: Confucian Thought for Twenty-first Century China”
  • A workshop on “Social and Cultural Approaches to Language” in 2014
  • Our first Asian Studies Faculty Symposium, the “Symposium on Health, Well-being, Social Security and Vulnerability in Asia” in 2015
  • Many other Asia-related events across campus in 2016-2016! Visit our 2015-2016 Annual Newsletter to learn more about our most recent activities


Asia Day BannerThe Asian Studies Program continues to actively seek funding and opportunities to grow and support Asia-related research, teaching, and activities on campus.

  • From Fall 2016 to Spring 2018 we cosponsored conferences in cooperation with several departments and schools across UB’s campus,
  • We hosted the first campus Asia Day in the Student Union where several hundred students were hosted by 35 student and campus groups presenting music, arts, and activities about Asia
  • We hosted our 2nd and 3rd annual Faculty Symposium on Asian Languages and Discourse,
  • and we organized more than 20 Asia@Noon lectures

This year, plan to join us for

  • the first annual Rustgi Undergraduate Conference on South Asia
  • our Asia@Noon lectures – most Fridays at Noon!
  • the 4th annual Faculty UB Symposium
  • and many more cosponsored academic and student events!

Our increasingly global society, half of which is comprised of people and cultures in Asia, makes imperative the need for Asia-aware college graduates. We will continue to develop courses which focus on contemporary issues and historical contingencies. We aim to increase our support for undergraduate study abroad by growing our scholarship fund through grant applications and public contributions. Our dynamic community of students and scholars has always been the core of our success as a program. We invite you to join us to create a strong online network of professionals, students, community members, and scholars linked by our shared interest in the study of Asia, centered on our program here at UB.