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Letter From the Director

Celia Lowe giving her welcome speech at the SEAC Fall Reception & Showcase

November 18, 2016

This week we are featuring a letter from our new director Celia Lowe.

Celia Lowe giving her welcome speech at the SEAC Fall Reception & Showcase

Celia Lowe giving her welcome speech at the SEAC Fall Reception & Showcase

We’ve gotten off to a great start this academic year. We’ve hosted Ko Ko Thet, a writer of Burmese poetry; an amazing conference organized by Pauli Sandjaya and sponsored by the Consulate of Indonesia, Approaches to Religious Violence, Radicalism, and Deradicalization: Perspectives from the US and Indonesia; the Indonesian artist Arahmaini Faisal, and teacher outreach workshops on the Ramayana and on Global Asia. We have students studying Burmese, Thai, Indonesian, Tagalog, Khmer, and Vietnamese. We have students studying Gamelan ensemble; Critical Filipino-American Histories; Medicine, Science and Technology in Southeast Asia; Comparative Colonialisms; Contemporary Southeast Asia; a graduate seminar for our incoming MA cohort taught by Judith Henchy which I visited recently, and more.

People have asked me what my vision for the Center is, and whether perhaps we would all now have to do Science and Technology Studies! As lovely as it would be for me to have an entire Center for the Study of STS in SEA, that is not what I see as singularly important. One thing I have learned since taking on this position in the summer, is that most of our funding actually goes to language study and outreach. Title 6 funding comes to us so that we become a National Resource Center for learning and teaching about Southeast Asia. This means primarily working with faculty and staff of Community Colleges and Minority Serving Institutions in order to enhance their ability to teach about Southeast Asia. This vision of the purpose of our center is somewhat different than the view I had as a faculty member before taking on the position, where I had imagined support of research about Southeast Asia as more central. So we will work on enhancing our Outreach mission. We also are funded to support and grow our languages. This is critical to the research and pedagogical mission of all of us, and we will be working to see how to sustain what we have and grow languages like Khmer and Burmese which are just getting off the ground. We also have a mission to enhance undergraduate learning. I have recently been working with Sam Le, head of the Asian Student Commission, to understand how we could communicate what we do to the various Southeast Asian-American interest groups on campus. Larger enrollments in language and content classes help us make the case that we are worthy of support. I think a strong arts program attracts students to Southeast Asian studies and makes our community vibrant, so that will continue to be important to the Center. Fundraising is always a goal. We always need contributions to our discretionary fund since we are not allowed to use federal funds for food, and other things. We are fortunate to have two graduate awards. The Keyes award is awarded in the Winter for graduate student preliminary research travel, and the Gething award is awarded in the Fall for conference travel. Finally I believe it is important to be responsive to our graduate students and faculty across the disciplines and across Mainland and Island Southeast Asia. This is not my Center to decide what the priorities will be, but our Center. I need your ideas and your vision for what the future of Southeast Asian studies that we want to build here, and I hope you will help me with this! We are planning a retreat for mid-winter in order to work on this communal vision, and to begin planning for the next Title 6 round.

This is a moment of tremendous change and transition at the SEA Center. I want to begin by introducing new staff. Rebakah Daro Minarchek is our new Managing Director at the Center. She speaks Indonesian and Thai, and some Vietnamese, and has worked in Southeast Asia since 2005, and thus she pulls our program together across mainland and island Southeast Asia. She comes to the University of Washington from Cornell University where she is completing a Ph.D. in Development Sociology with a focus on Indonesia, and she also recently finished a research position as an Affiliated Fellow at the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) in Leiden, Netherlands. Rebakah has worked in the Southeast Asia National Resource Centers (Title VI) at both Ohio and Cornell and, since 2012, she has served as the Associate Director of the American Institute for Indonesian Studies (AIFIS), a consortium of U.S. universities and colleges that fosters scholarly exchange and research efforts between Indonesian and U.S. scholars.

We also have a new program assistant, Kasey Rackowitz. Many of you already know Kasey. She is a graduate student in our MA program, and she also has a BA from the Jackson School. She studies inter-ethnic marriage in Malaysia and has applied for a Fulbright grant to continue these studies this year.

I also would like to mention some staff who will be continuing. Professor Rick Bonus will continue on as our MA program Coordinator. He is beloved by our students and we really could not run such a successful program without his hard work on their behalf.

Professor Pauli Sandjaya is continuing as our language coordinator working with the language instructors to enhance course enrollments and get new courses on the books. Bu Pauli’s work is invaluable for helping us to advance Southeast Asian language studies this year.

And we have a new coordinator position as well this year. Professor Christina Sunardi has just agreed to be the Arts coordinator for the Center. She will ensure that we maintain a strong artistic presence in the community, and work with other staff and faculty to bring in dancers, musicians, and performer to enhance the position of the arts at the Center. This year she is bringing in Ki Mitiyanto who will be doing some repair work on our gamelan and puppets, and performing, and she will also be discussing possibilities with Jenna Grant for bringing in Cambodian artists.

We have three new students in our graduate MA class this year – Adrian Alarilla, Dimas Iqbal Romadhon and Cliff Peterson.

What we do here now has been built on the hard work of staff and faculty who have worked to make the Center the strong, welcoming, and collegial place that it is, and to establish it’s leading position within Southeast Asian Studies in the US.  We want to thank Professor Laurie Sears, Dr. Sara Van Fleet, Tikka Sears, and Linda Cuadra who have each given many years of service to Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Washington.