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July 20, 2006

Jackson School ties for first in foreign-study grants

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded the University of Washington eight grants worth almost $15 million that recognize eight foreign-study areas at the Jackson School of International Studies as among the best in the nation.

Only the University of Wisconsin received as many, meaning the two schools share No. 1 ranking, followed by Berkeley, which received seven grants.

Jackson School director Anand Yang described the grants as highly competitive. “People kill to get one,” he said, adding it’s “incredibly prestigious” for the University to receive eight.

Announced this week, the grants designate eight study areas at the Jackson School as National Resource Centers (NRC), conferring top-tier status on them, Yang said. The government also awarded Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowship programs for the same study areas.

They are: Canada; East Asia; International; Middle East; Russia/East Europe; South Asia; Southeast Asia and Western Europe/Europe. The Canada grant was awarded jointly to the UW and Western Washington University.

The NRC and the FLAS programs have been funded under various names continuously since 1958. These grant programs represent the largest federal expenditure in support of foreign language and area studies in the higher education community, according to the government.

Institutions apply for NRC and FLAS funding through a single application and then go through an extensive and thorough review process, according to Mike Nugent, a chief in the U.S. Department of Education’s international education programs service.

The point is to select the best projects designed to develop and maintain a U.S. higher education system to make citizens literate about things international, Nugent said. In addition, the program produces expertise in the less-commonly taught languages and areas of the world in which those languages are spoken.

For fiscal year 2006 NRC competition, the Department of Education received 178 applications requesting funding of nearly $51 million, and 124 won funding for a total of almost $29 million. For the FLAS competition, the agency received 171 applications requesting funding of almost $46 million, and 124 won funding for a total of more than $29 million.

The grants awarded to the UW range from $94,000 to $315,500 per fiscal year and run over a four-year period, Yang said. The FLAS fellowships are awarded to graduate students. The NRC awards benefit everyone interested in area studies — faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates, along with anyone interested in deepening their knowledge and understanding of other regions of the world and of major global issues and themes.

“Our getting an East Asian Studies Center grant,” said Yang, “means we have outstanding strengths in all areas of East Asian Studies — history, languages, political science, sociology, anthropology, law, business, etc., and thus have the resources and capacity to train the next generation of area studies specialists.”

The point of these grants, he added, “is to support institutions that prepare experts in these areas, and experts who go on to take on a variety of jobs from the State Department and intelligence agencies to private sector to academia.”