UAlbany, Rockefeller Receive Grant to Establish SUNY/CUNY Southeast Asia Consortium

side by side protraits of Meredith Weiss and Michitake Aso
Meredith Weiss and Michitake Aso

ALBANY, N.Y. (July 18, 2023) — The University at Albany has received a four-year $550,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to support building a SUNY/CUNY Southeast Asia Consortium. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy Professor Meredith Weiss will serve as its initial director, while Michitake Aso, associate professor of history, will work among lead faculty from SUNY and CUNY schools.

The Henry Luce Foundation’s Luce Initiative on Southeast Asia (LuceSEA) is a multi-year grants competition with the goal of strengthening the study of Southeast Asia in institutions of higher learning in North America and in Southeast Asia by providing resources for the creation of models, strategies and partnerships that not only bolster existing program structures but also take them in new directions.

The SUNY/CUNY Southeast Asia Consortium (SEAC) aims to enhance Southeast Asia-related teaching and research to benefit both Southeast Asian-identified and Southeast Asia-focused students and researchers. As a statewide link for faculty, students, alumni and surrounding communities, SEAC will develop and enhance collaboration and networks across New York as well as between the United States and Southeast Asia.

Each year, SEAC will delve into one interdisciplinary theme through curricular, research and public outreach components as a way to explore new and emerging areas of inquiry. For the first three years, the themes will be:

  • Sites and spaces of mobilization and protest (2023-24)
  • Southeast Asian identities in popular culture and literature (2024-25)
  • Climate change, sustainability and geography (2025-26)

Students statewide will have the opportunity to take an interdisciplinary course co-taught by SUNY and CUNY faculty that aligns with the year’s theme. In addition, students, faculty and researchers will have access to supplemental programming, including lectures, research workshops, an experiential field school — the first in Chiang Mai, Thailand — as well as research, language-training and publication grants.

“The SUNY/CUNY SEAC will offer a uniquely valuable opportunity to foster and support the study of Southeast Asia across disciplines, throughout New York’s public universities,” Weiss said. “This consortium expands opportunities for students, faculty and members of the public to engage with Southeast Asian societies and cultures, politics and histories, economies, ecosystems and more. We are profoundly grateful to the Henry Luce Foundation for this opportunity, and excited to build new programs, networks and possibilities.”

With 64 campuses and 370,000 students in the SUNY system and 25 campuses and 270,000 students in the CUNY network, SEAC has the opportunity to make New York’s public university systems a hub for the study of Southeast Asia.

“Rockefeller College is thrilled to see SEAC launch under the leadership of professors Meredith Weiss and Michitake Aso,” Rockefeller Dean Julie Novkov said. “This initiative will build a dynamic international network of students, faculty and researchers to support and strengthen the study of Southeast Asia. The four-year grant will have a long-lasting and transformative impact on the people and institutions that participate and on the interdisciplinary study of Southeast Asia.”

College of Arts and Sciences Dean Jeanette Altarriba noted that the SEAC initiative strengthens the University’s network of collaborative and interdisciplinary work.

“The SEAC initiative is closely aligned with several of our current Strategic Plan priorities related to internationalization, research excellence, student success, and diversity, equity and inclusion,” Altarriba said. “The emphasis on providing support for graduate student and faculty research will encourage meaningful scholarly outputs and contribute positively to the intellectual discourse on our campus and beyond.”