Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

Dwight King
Dwight King

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News Release

Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-3635

October 3, 2006

Center for Southeast Asian Studies gets $1.7 million boost

DeKalb, Ill. — The U.S. Department of Education has awarded the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Northern Illinois University with a $1.7 million grant for its continued program and worldwide outreach efforts.

The award is a renewal of the Center’s Title VI Undergraduate National Resource Center Grant. The grants are awarded every four years to support efforts to increase the national capacity of trained specialists in world languages and cultures.

With 45 faculty associates and staff specialists, the Center for Southeast Asian Studies is recognized internationally for its scholarship and resources.

“Our faculty and staff continue to make NIU a world-class resource on Southeast Asia,” said political scientist Dwight King, who serves as center director. “The award also underscores the growing importance of Southeast Asia on the world stage.”

King noted that Southeast Asia’s growth, urbanization and globalization have outpaced the rest of the world. The region includes Indonesia, which is the world’s fourth most populous country and is home to the world’s largest Islamic population. Southeast Asian countries in recent years have suffered from a disproportionate number of catastrophic natural disasters, including the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Additionally, the region is a major front in the fight against the spread of bird flu.

External reviewers of NIU’s Title VI grant proposal gave the university high marks, citing its “dedicated and cohesive faculty,” “exceptionally strong ties with institutions in Southeast Asia” and “innovative language teaching.”

The Center for Southeast Asian Studies coordinates an undergraduate minor and a graduate concentration in Southeast Asian studies. More than 1,500 students each year register for courses offered in the region’s languages, literatures, anthropology, geography, history, religion, music, art history and government.

With the new round of funding, the Center for Southeast Asian Studies will continue building SEAsite (, an interactive Web site that offers language and culture training programs in Burmese, Indonesian, Khmer, Lao, Tagalog and Thai.

“The site has been extremely successful,” King said. “During just one month of last year, for example, 13,000 unique visitors from more than 100 countries logged onto our site, with 65 percent requesting teacher resources for introducing Southeast Asia into the classroom.”

The new funding also will allow the center to hire Kheang Un, a political scientist specializing in Cambodia. He will work as part-time assistant director at the center beginning this fall.

Other center priorities will include the following:

  • Scholarship offerings. Graduate students pursuing foreign language and area studies can apply for the Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) scholarship.
  • Teacher training at the elementary, high school and community college levels. NIU sponsors lectures at schools in the region, and conducts training in Southeast Asian studies through teacher institutes held on campus. NIU development grants are awarded to teachers who complete this training and develop online course modules, which are made available on the center’s Web site to teachers nationwide.
  • Scholarly publishing. The center hopes to ramp up its publishing enterprises, which include monographs, language texts in Burmese and Vietnamese and two leading scholarly journals.
  • An expanded research emphasis. King said center associates hope to increase research production, especially research on Islamic societies.
  • Supporting activities. These include collaborating with other National Resource Centers and working on the digital conservation of rare and fragile cultural documents, books and works of art. NIU has the nation’s fifth largest Southeast Asian library collection.

For more information on the NIU Center for Southeast Asian Studies, visit