Grants aid East African, South Asian studies

BY HOLLY HINES | JULY 27, 2009 7:15 AM

Recent UI graduate Rachel Bender studied Swahili while in college.

With a concentration area in global health, she said the language seemed “interesting, exciting, and applicable.”

And beginning early this week, other students interested in Africa will be greeted by an expanded program.

The UI is set to receive $75,000 from the U.S. Department of Education to create an undergraduate program in East African studies, according to a press release from Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

“There have been a lot of people wanting to make [ African studies] grow,” said Bender, who received a bachelor’s degree in international studies.

Many related programs need funding, she said; for example, a trip for UI pre-medicine students to gain firsthand medical experience in Tanzania.

Students interested in Kiswahili — as it is called in the African language itself — will benefit from the grant, according to the press release.

At the UI, Swahili classes focus on culture, food, and current events in addition to teaching the structure of the language, Bender said.

After taking the class, she picked up bits and pieces of Swahili in passing conversations around campus, she said.

UI funding helps students who want to travel abroad through International Programs grants, said Joanna Wiese, a graduate research assistant in the program.

The Stanley Award for research abroad, offering $1,000 to $3,000 to “outstanding undergraduates,”, is one such example, according to the International Program website.

The program also provides smaller international travel grants of up to $500 for students interested in shorter trips, Wiese said.

A related $82,500 grant will be used to expand the UI South Asian studies program for undergraduates as well, according to the press release.

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