Centre College awarded grant from the Henry Luce Foundation for Asian Studies and the Environment

facultyThe Henry Luce Foundation has awarded Centre College a $50,000 exploration grant through its Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment (LIASE), a competitive program through which the Foundation aspires to “encourage innovative approaches to Asian studies teaching and research at the undergraduate level through the lens of environment and sustainable development.” This is the first time Centre has been the recipient of a Luce grant.
Assistant Professor of Chinese Kyle Anderson, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Brett Werner and Assistant Professor of Philosophy Daniel Kirchner (pictured above, left to right) will pilot an interdisciplinary Asia and the Environment (A&E) lab course during the 2015 spring semester as part of the grant project. “We saw the Luce grant as an opportunity to invite Centre students to explore a pressing global issue, while also experimenting with a new pedagogical model requiring the resources of multiple disciplines,” says Anderson.
“The lab-based approach allows us to make the most of high-impact pedagogical practices that Centre College already aims to promote: experiential learning and community-based learning,” says Kirchner.
The one-credit lab will be taught jointly by Anderson, Kirchner and Werner and will draw students from three discipline-specific classes: Asian Humanities, Environmental Ethics and Introduction to Environmental Studies.
“The goal is to pull students from diverse and cross-divisional courses into a setting where they can use their range of disciplinary knowledge to tackle real-world problems,” Kirchner explains.
In this case, the real-world problems are related to the impact of food production on the environment. Students in the A&E lab will focus on three issues: aquaculture in Thailand, the pork and poultry industry in China and the palm oil industry in Malaysia. As lab participants explore the environmental impacts of these industries in Asia, they will study comparable issues in Kentucky. Students will make site visits to a closed-loop tilapia farm in Lexington and to an abattoir in nearby Lancaster. They will also study deforestation in eastern Kentucky, which will serve as an analog to the environmental impacts of palm oil production in Malaysia.
Students “need to understand these issues in local places like central and eastern Kentucky, but also in global places like China, Thailand and Malaysia,” says Werner.
Studying similar industries in different locations will show how issues are “complicated by geography and culture and politics, among other factors,” he adds.
Anderson, Kirchner and Werner will travel to Asia during CentreTerm 2015 to collect materials and video footage for the lab. Three partners in Asia will be supporting their efforts: Kasetsart University in Thailand, Alltech’s Asia-Pacific offices and the University of Malaysia. “The kinds of connections we’re building in Asia and Kentucky are amazing,” says Werner.
by Laurie Pierce