“If you want to understand the world, you need to understand Asia.”
— Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times
Although Berea College did not institute a formal academic program in Asian Studies until 1999, Berea’s connection with Asia has a long history. As early as 1914, Berea’s mandate to “assert the kinship of all people” led to our campus hosting the Chinese-American activist Ng Poon Chew, who spoke against the Chinese Exclusion Act during his visit here.
Francis S. Hutchins spent nearly twenty years in China prior to becoming Berea’s longest-serving president in 1939. “Anyone who has roamed from his home country will have noticed the constant intermingling of ideas, culture, and goods from one nation to another,” President Hutchins declared in his inaugural address. “Our curriculum must always be those cultural objects which will enable us to think, and understand the world in which we live.” When Americans of Japanese descent were confined to “War Relocation Camps” in 1942, President Hutchins authorized the admission of Japanese-American students and the recruitment of Japanese-American staff, even though the local community opposed their presence.
Connections between Berea and Asia also have traveled from west to east. In 1963, the Korean-American writer Induk Pahk was inspired to establish a school that she called “Berea in Korea,” now known as Induk University, in Seoul, South Korea. Since 1988, Berea has participated in the sister region relationship between Madison County, Kentucky and the Yatsugatake region of Japan’s Yamanashi Prefecture, which brings Japanese visitors to Berea every spring and Bereans to Japan every autumn. President John B. Stephenson’s friendship with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama resulted in an agreement to bring Tibetan students to Berea, leading to the first Tibetan Berea graduates in 1995.
Today, Asian Studies graduates can be found running multimillion-dollar companies, practicing law, teaching English as a second language, pursuing academic careers, earning a living in the arts, and serving in non-profit agencies all over the world. Through the visionary leadership of Berea faculty, staff, and students, engagement with Asia has become an increasingly important way for Bereans to “assert the kinship of all people.”
For more information about the Asian Studies Department, see: