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A Year in Review: 2020-21 | Celebrations and Transitions

July 8, 2021

During the 2020-21 academic year, the UW South Asia Center thrived in its mission to support the study of South Asia in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

We were proud to host and support a wide range of engaging programming – all of it virtual – in our communities this year.

We invite you to explore the highlights below, and look forward to welcoming you back to campus in the fall.

New Gift to Support the Study of India at UW

Thanks to a recent $100,000 gift from longtime UW donors S. Rao and Usha Varanasi, the S. Rao and Usha Varanasi Endowed Scholarship for Studies of India will support undergraduate studies of India for years to come.

“We are fortunate to have grown up in two major democracies, India and the United States, but we feel that the understanding of strengths and similarities between our two beloved countries is often superficial,” said the Varanasis about the purpose of their gift.

“Our endowment is an encouragement to students to learn about India from renowned teachers and experts because knowledge deepens empathy.”

The UW South Asia Center will administer the new scholarship, which will be open to students across campus with demonstrated interest in India through coursework, study abroad, language training, honors thesis research or other initiatives.

Read more →
Give to the South Asia Center →

A Community of Scholars and Students: 2020-21 at a Glance

  • The South Asia Center awarded Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships to 15 students across 8 departments to study 4 South Asian languages. Read more →
  • We welcomed new faculty members Leela Fernandes (Director, JSIS) and Joseph Marino (Asian Languages & Literature) to the South Asia Studies community.
  • Our faculty and grad students published dozens of scholarly articles, books, book chapters, and op-eds on international and South Asian topics. Read more →
  • Congratulations to the 2021 graduates of the International Studies (South Asia) MA program! Read more →

HIGHLIGHTS: Community and K-14 Outreach

Nepali Language Workshop
June-July 2020

Led by instructor Binod Shrestha and student assistant Sauharda Rai, the inaugural Nepali language workshop brought together 26 language learners from across the country for two weeks of online learning sessions.

Participants’ diverse motivations reflected an enduring interest in pursuing a less-commonly taught language across professions, age groups, and personal interests. In addition to current college students and faculty studying Nepali for research purposes, participants included nonprofit professionals working in global health and education; a COVID-19 contact tracer responsible for taking calls with Nepali speakers over the phone; and a filmmaker brushing up on language skills before a return to the field, to name a few.

Read more →
Upcoming: Summer Nepali 2021 →

Community College Master Teacher Institute
July 2020

Are borders a political language? An ideology? A way of thinking? A way of being in this world? What are the implications of borders on globalization, identity, democracy, migration, global health, press freedom, climate change, Black Lives Matter?

These were just a few of the critical topics discussed and debated for five days in July 2020 by 32 competitively selected community college faculty who participated in “Borders: Real and Imaginary,” the annual Community College Master Teacher Institute (CCMTI) held in summer at the University of Washington. Led by the six federally-funded National Resource Centers housed at the Jackson School, and co-sponsored with other partners in education, each year CCMTI explores a global topic from a variety of perspectives and disciplines.

Read more →
Upcoming: CCMTI 2021 →


Tasveer South Asian Lit + Film Festivals
October 2020

The South Asia Center’s longstanding partnership with local nonprofit cultural organization Tasveer went virtual in fall 2020:

Asian + Global Studies Course Development Grants for Community College Faculty

As part of our mission to incorporate the study of South Asia in community college curricula, the South Asia Center co-funded grants for community college faculty to infuse South Asian content in courses on Folklore & Mythology; Cultural Psychology; and Business Communication.

Read more →

HIGHLIGHTS: Colloquia and Speaker Series

The South Asia Center’s speaker series, colloquia, and reading workshops sparked discussions on critical issues in and on South Asia. Due to the virtual nature of 2020-21 events, we welcomed scholars, students, and members of the community based in the US, South Asia, Europe, Australia, and all over the globe.

Event highlights: 


Navigating Global Careers Speaker Series

The spring quarter Navigating Global Careers Speaker Series, a collaboration with the Center for Global Studies, East Asia Center, Southeast Asia Center, and JSIS Office of Academic Services, offered students a firsthand glimpse into the world of internationally-focused careers.

Representatives from government, tech, and nonprofits joined International Studies majors and students from related programs for candid discussions on professional trajectories, opportunities and challenges, and the skills needed to thrive in a globally connected world.

A Note from Outgoing SAC Director Sunila Kale

It has been a pleasure to serve as Director of the South Asia Center for the last six years. This past year inparticular has been very difficult for many of us, with family, friends, and colleagues both in the US and in South Asia so deeply affected by the pandemic. Even through these challenges, it’s been extremely rewarding for me both personally and professionally to engage with so many individuals and organizations here at the University of Washington and in the broader Seattle region to foster a deeper engagement with South Asia Studies. My thanks to Nick Gottschall, the Center’s managing director, for being a superb collaborator throughout.

I’m delighted that my colleague, Prof. Radhika Govindrajan, will take the helm at the South Asia Center beginning this summer. I look forward to staying engaged with the Center and learning a lot from her and from all of you in the coming years.

A note of appreciation for our donors

Our work would not be possible without the generous support of our community donors. Your gifts are testaments to the value of international studies, language knowledge, and cultural understanding in a complex and interdependent world. Donate now →

Coming Up This Summer…

Stay tuned for upcoming announcements this summer: our second summer Nepali language program, the 2021 Community College Master Teacher Institute, summer Urdu for high school students, award recipient announcements for FLASConlon Fellowship, and IAWW Scholarship, introducing incoming graduate students, autumn quarter events and more!

The South Asia Center in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington is an important intellectual and pedagogical hub for the study of South Asia. A National Resource Center funded by the Title VI program of the United States Department of Education, our mission is to enhance the study of South Asia (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) on campus, in the community, across the Pacific Northwest, and throughout the United States.