At Cornell University, Finding A “Home Away From Home”

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Cornell University Campus, Ithaca. Photo credit: Alex from www.flickr.com (Full link available)

Today’s article is a brief review of Cornell University’s Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, which acts as a hub for global activities at Cornell. The Center itself is associated with many international programs across Cornell University and among them is the Southeast Asia Program at Cornell (SEAP).

Cornell University’s Southeast Asia Program.

I had the privilege of being in the city of Ithaca (where most of Cornell campuses are located; there are some campuses that are located in New York City as well) and visited the “house” of Cornell’s SEAP a few days ago: The Kahin Center.

It’s actually an elegant mansion previously owned by Ithaca’s prominent Treman family. The Kahin Center now is host of various Cornell events, such as receptions, committee meetings, student organization functions, etc. Priority is given to SEAP, Asian Studies, and other area studies programs of The Einaudi Center for International Studies.

This historic house serves as “home” to SEAP graduate students, visiting fellows and scholars, faculty members, and where a diverse group of students and faculty whose interests span a range of disciplines can draw upon each others’ experiences and knowledge of Southeast Asia. 

Southeast Asia Studies at Cornell: A Multi-disciplinary Approach.

The study of Southeast Asia has a strong presence at Cornell University. The SEAP in fact, is designated a the National Resource Center by the United States Department of Education for the period of 2010-2014, meaning that the SEAP has been nationally recognized in the promotion of advanced foreign language training, area and international knowledge in the liberal arts and applied discipline focused on Southeast Asia.

One aspect of the program that I took from the Center’s website, the one that I should highlight here is that …“the program has successfully trained undergraduate and graduate students who distinguish themselves in universities, area study centers, businesses, banks, foundations, governments and multinational agencies both in the US and abroad. It also offers outreach to regional K-12 and Post-secondary schools/teachers and is known for its academic publications focused on the region.”

To make the long story short, you can be a postgrad student in development sociology or mathematics, but if your country of origin, or thesis, or area of interest is related to Southeast Asia, you’re more than welcome to participate in or contribute to any activities, seminars or symposia hosted by the Center.

It was not a surprise that I ended up meeting with — and getting to know of — some undergraduate and graduate students from Indonesia at the Center. They told me that the Center has provided them a place to call “home” while they continue their studies at Cornell. The graduate students and visiting fellows have rooms to study and write their thesis on the upper level of the Center. I spoke with a professor at Cornell who praised the Indonesian students for continuously coming up with “intellectually-engaging” programs: discussions about current issues in Indonesia, in addition to participation to the “lighter” social events such as organizing some food festivals.

The Cornell Modern Indonesia Project (CMIP)

The Cornell Modern Indonesia Project (CMIP) is another Cornell-affiliated program that has a strong “Indonesian presence” to it. CMIP was initiated in the 1950s by faculty members in Cornell’s Southeast Asia Program who were committed to making contemporary analyses of Indonesia and translations of its important documents available to scholars and students.

The project is placed under the purview of SEAP and is now involved in a number of new initiatives, involving a large team-taught course by members of the program at Cornell; a multi-disciplinary conference on the “State of Indonesian Studies”; an overture to scientists working on Indonesia at Cornell; and toward concretizing an institutional presence on the ground in the region.

The program has published 75 works to date and is currently involved with a number of initiatives involving several multi-disciplinary programs in various fields of study, all with one focus of study: Indonesia.

It’s also really interesting that the CMIP has also been very active in getting the American Institute for Indonesian Studies (AIFIS) off the ground in Indonesia.  This has been done together with a consortium of other US Universities, to further study that country in the US, and to foster exchanges with Indonesian faculty and students.  To see further details of various programs offer by this program, see www.aifis.org.

It was a short visit to the Center although I learned quite a bit about its programs and activities. I hope that the article will provide a general overview about the Center and its activities and programs. It’s indeed a “home far away from home” for students at Cornell who are interested to study and explore more about all things related to Southeast Asia.




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Yunetta managed international development programs for several years at the United Nations and the Association for Southeast Asian Nations, before moving to New York to work in financial services. She earned her M.A. in Political Science at KU Leuven, in Belgium, with an Academic Excellence scholarship from the Inter-University Council for Development Cooperation. Yunetta enjoys writing and has published her work at the Jakarta Post and Asia News.
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