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JSIS's Eight Reasons to Celebrate

Story by
Nancy Joseph
January 2011

The Jackson School has done it again. 

For the fourth time, the UW’s Jackson School of International Studies (JSIS) has received grant funding from the Department of Education (DOE) for all eight of its Title VI National Resource Centers—the most Title VI grants of any institution and second only to the University of Wisconsin in terms of the total dollar amount, with $16 million to be awarded over four years. 

National Resource Center grants support instruction in fields needed to provide full understanding of areas, regions or countries; research and training in international studies; work in the language aspects of professional and other fields of study; and instruction and research on issues in world affairs.

Group of girls posing for a picture

Some of the faces behind the Jackson School's eight Title VI National Resource Centers include (from left) Tamara Leonard, Center for Global Studies; Diane Atkinson and Kristi Roundtree, East Asia Center; Allison Dvaladze, REECAS; and Sara Van Fleet, Southeast Asia Center. Media credit: Beverly Winner-Coates.

At the UW, at least half of the grant funds will be used for fellowships for students studying foreign languages. Reşat Kasaba, director of the Jackson School, estimates that as many as 500 graduate and undergraduate students will receive language fellowships during the grant’s four-year period. Last summer alone, 60 students studied 25 different languages through such support. 

The University of Washington has a long history with Title VI, being among the first universities to receive funding. The UW’s first award went to its East Asia Center (then known as the “Far Eastern Institute”), which has continued to receive funding in nearly all funding rounds over the past half-century. The initial award—a whopping $26,260—was granted by the Department of Defense in 1959. The Title VI program moved to the Department of Education about a decade later. 

“Over time, the focus moved away from the mission of learning about places that the U.S. is trying to defend itself from,” says Kasaba, “and has become more about engagement in the world and the establishment of ties with other regions.” 

The second UW center to be funded was the Middle East Center, which has received continuous funding since 1974 and currently receives the largest Title VI grant at the UW. The eight JSIS centers now receiving Title VI funding include Canadian Studies Center; Center for Global Studies; Center for West European Studies; East Asia Center; Ellison Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asian Studies; Middle East Center; South Asia Center; and Southeast Asia Center. 

John Compton and Liz Brady

Graduate students John Compton and Liz Brady are among those who have received language fellowships Media credit: Beverly Winner-Coates

“In a lot of other places, these sorts of centers float, with no home department,” says Kasaba. “Here they are in the Jackson School, which I think is to their benefit. The School has a long history of commitment to international and area studies, which is something the Department of Education looks for.”

Outreach is another important component for Title VI centers, particularly outreach to K-12 teachers and students. Most JSIS centers spend a quarter or more of their time on outreach, including programs for K-12 teachers that range from weekend seminars to international tours. Teachers return from these programs with new insights to share with their students about distant (and sometimes not-so-distant) regions.

Of course the need for global awareness doesn’t end with high school graduation. Some funds are set aside for the development of UW courses with an international perspective, in disciplines ranging from political science to environmental studies to art history. “This is a good way of encouraging faculty to teach in this area who wouldn’t otherwise,” says Kasaba, who offers the example of the Canadian Studies Center, which has developed courses with faculty in environmental studies.

With Title VI funds secured for another four years, the Jackson School can breathe a little easier—for a while. But no one takes this support for granted. 

“You talk about 40-plus years of funding for our centers and there is a certain expectation that comes with that,” says Kasaba. “With so many active centers in one campus, we are able to explore some of the most important problems of our world in an effective, interdisciplinary, and cross-regional way. We are confident that our centers will continue to receive Title VI support for many years to come.”