New director seeks improvement

By Moin H. Khan

Improving the substance and image of NIU’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies is the goal of its first full-time director.

Michael Aung-Thwin, former assistant professor of Asian history at Elmira College, Elmira, N.Y., said although the center is one of the country’s eight finest, he will try to make it recognized as one of the only three comprehensive centers.

The center is competing with Cornell University, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Michigan to be eligible for the Comprehensive Center Grant. The grant is offered for three years by the Office of the Department of Education in Washington, Aung-Thwin said. This grant, which might be decided late this spring, will bring several foreign language fellowships to the center.

The center also is in the running for $8 million in grant funds from the Henry Luce Foundation, established in 1936 by the late co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time magazine. Among NIU’s seven competitors are Cornell University, University of California-Berkeley and Yale University. The grant will be decided in December.

Aung-Thwin, author of 25 articles and one book, “Pagan: The Origins of Modern Burma,” finds the new job challenging. He said his duties are three-fold. He coordinates the general education “cross road” course, which is taught by 15 different faculty members, and works in administrative and research areas.

“I want to see the center go in a new path more vigorously,” Aung-Thwin said. He said he would like to attract more excellent graduate students in this field by improving the course and the publication programs.

Inviting more outside scholars and increasing ties with Southeast Asian universities are his other priorities, he said. Other programs include setting up a graduate student lecture series and taking the American expertise beyond the state.