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Archive for Saturday, August 11, 2007

Dynamo’ advances objectives for Asian studies center

August 11, 2007

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The 12-hour plane ride across the Pacific doesn't bother Marsha Haufler anymore. In fact, she has traveled to Asia so many times that she's lost count.

With extensive knowledge of East Asian culture and her push to ensure that Kansas University students get the best education available, the interim director of KU's Center for East Asian Studies is helping the university get more acquainted with partners on the other side of the world.

"Her main asset is her energy. She's really a dynamo," CEAS outreach coordinator Randi Hacker said of Haufler.

Since 1996, Haufler has worked as a professor of art history, teaching more than 15 different courses during her time at KU. Now she is director for the Center for East Asian Studies, a title that she has held twice before, from 1998 to 2000 and from 2005 to 2006.

Haufler boasted that learning an Asian language helps students prepare for their entrance into the work force.

"Government agencies, NGOs and educational institutions need individuals who know Asian languages, culture and history," Haufler said. "Many exciting careers are open to people well-grounded in Chinese, Korean or Japanese."

She would know, considering she has defined an impressive career from her interest in Asian culture. She is fluent in Chinese and holds reading proficiency in Japanese. She's also studied Korean and Tibetan to gain familiarity with the languages.

"Marsha was most instrumental in getting more faculty to teach language courses," Hacker said. "She was really instrumental in opening up the Chinese language courses."

Within in the past couple of years, enrollment figures have grown in Asian languages, thanks to Haufler's hard work. During her time at KU, Haufler and the CEAS have pushed KU to get more instructors to teach language courses.

"I think last year they had record numbers," Hacker said. "The interest in the Chinese language has picked up."

Last spring 78 students enrolled in Chinese classes, which could have only been taken with a fall prerequisite course.

To boost numbers of faculty, the CEAS works in conjunction with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures. Usually the number of new instructors that KU can hire comes from fundraising efforts, so Haufler and her team at the CEAS look for other ways to help KU pay instructors. Recently, funds raised have helped hire a new instructor in Chinese as well as additional lecturers and graduate teaching assistants in the Department of East Asian Languages. The CEAS also gives scholarships and academic advising to those studying East Asian language and culture. Throughout the school year, they hold activities promoting Asian culture, like film series, lectures and festivals.

Jennifer Hurst, Lawrence junior, enrolled in Chinese because she hopes to teach English in China. She said keeping up with studying can be tedious sometimes, but it's worth it to her.

"You've got to love (the language)," Hurst said. "If you love it, it's awesome."

Haufler and the CEAS also helped get KU to offer Korean language courses for the summer semester.

"These courses are an excellent way for incoming and continuing students to get a head start on the study of an Asian language," Haufler said.

Since first going to Japan in 1969 to do research on folk art for a master's in Japanese folklore, she lived in Taiwan twice to study Chinese and has been back to East Asia at least once a year since the 1980s to study and teach. For the past eight years, she has gone to Korea for two weeks in the fall to study Korean art.

"This has allowed me to add Korean art history courses to the art history curriculum," Haufler said.

After gaining her doctoral thesis on Chinese art history when she lived in Taiwan during the 1970s, she worked as a tour escort in China during the summers in the mid-1980s.

"This allowed me to travel all over the country," Haufler said.

Along with her extensive travel, Haufler has won handfuls of awards, a recent one being the Provost's Award for leadership in international education. She has found numerous ways to spread the love and knowledge of cultures that she loves to KU students.

"Throw the idea that it's hard out of the window," Hacker said. "The difficulty comes more because of the reading and writing. It isn't as hard as you think."

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