Report on Diversity and Inclusion

Elliott School of International Affairs

Report on Diversity & Inclusion in Asian Studies
September 29, 2020


Recognizing the long-term deficiencies and gaps in Asian Studies education and scholarship (as outlined in our statement), the Sigur Center for Asian Studies, Institute for Korean Studies (GWIKS), East Asia National Resource Center (NRC), and the Asian Studies Program have been taking tangible steps towards addressing them in our public programming, scholarship opportunities offered, outreach, academic programming, and GW community building. 

This list is by no means exhaustive, and covers only the activities of Asian Studies-related programs and research centers located within the Elliott School of International Affairs at GW. It is also important to note that our frequent use of the term “BIPOC” in this report (Black, indigenous, and people of color) – while useful shorthand – does not necessarily capture the diversity and intersectionality of the multitude of communities constituting the term. There is much work still to be done in improving our own engagement with Black, Latinx, indigenous, and the many historically marginalized or underrepresented communities in the field of international affairs in the United States.


Public Programming 

In the last year alone, our team has made a concerted effort to increase the accessibility of and to our public programs to make our programs as open, inclusive, and reachable to as wide and diverse an audience as possible. This includes making digital content ADA-accessible, writing guides on how to hold accessible webinars for student staff assistants, and continuing to adhere to the Elliott School’s policy that if a panel, symposium, or other event with three or more speakers consists of a single gender, then the moderator must be of a different gender

We strive to generate programs that are not only inclusive, but reflective of diverse perspectives in Asian studies. To that end, our teams will strive to learn from multidisciplinary and intersectional perspectives in the field, and absorb feedback from our communities to help us build responsive, sensitive, and critically engaged programs. To that end, our team this year is planning events that will take closer looks at diverse perspectives in Asian studies. 

The NRC, in conjunction with GWIKS, the Security Policy Studies Program, and the Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute, plans to host a webinar on October 14th, 2020 on the history of Puerto Ricans who fought in the Korean War. The event will examine the impact the War has had on Puerto Rican communities as part of Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, and reflect on the 70th anniversary of the Korean War. 

GWIKS plans to host the 28th Annual Hahn Moo-Sook Colloquium of Korean Humanities Series at GW (agenda and link forthcoming), which will examine the evolution of the relationship between Black and Korean-American communities since the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. The colloquium series has gained a national and international reputation as a significant forum to promote a better understanding of modern Korean society in view of its history and in the context of Asia and the world. Four speakers, including Professor Aku Kadogo from Spelman College’s Department of Theater and Performance, are scheduled to present at the colloquium. (Our connection to Spelman College is detailed under “K-12, MSI, and HBCU Outreach.”)

Academic Programming

The Asian Studies Program (Bachelor’s and Master’s) is designed to create an inclusive environment. We make efforts to recruit talented diverse students from the United States and around the world as we believe that a diverse student body is critical to the professional and intellectual vitality of the Elliott School and our continued growth as a multi- and intercultural community. The number of Black students in particular has grown significantly during the last two years, including two who received Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships and another who received significant fellowship support from the Elliott School. 53% of all current Masters students in the Asian Studies Program are BIPOC, as well as 43% of all current Bachelors students. We have also seen an increase in BIPOC applicants in the past two years, though we have room to improve in recruiting students from indigenous and Latinx backgrounds.  

In 2019, during the five-year program review, the program director also proposed creating a fellowship fund specifically devoted to first-generation college students. The program itself assures that students gain broad exposure to the history and culture of all regions of Asia. Finally, it provides mentorship services to all students but this also helps to make sure that our students are successful in both pursuing their degree and finding employment.

In addition, the GWIKS North Korea Program is a one-month intensive course designed to provide professionals in Washington, including Congressional staff, government officials, journalists, think tanks, NGOs, private sector experts, and graduate students with a variety of perspectives about North Korea. In the 2019-20 program, 60% of participants were BIPOC, and received special lectures on North Korea’s history, domestic politics, economy, foreign policy, nuclear program, culture, society, and human rights from specialists including former U.S. ambassadors, advisors to international energy agencies, and economists.

K-12, MSI, and HBCU Outreach

In 2018, the Sigur Center and GWIKS were jointly awarded an East Asia National Resource Center (NRC) designation from the U.S. Department of Education along with Gelman Library and the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures (EALL) at the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. The NRC’s aim is to enhance the accessibility of learning resources and expand critical dialogue about contemporary world affairs and East Asian studies  to the broader public, including students, K-12 educators, minority-serving institutions (MSIs) such as historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), policymakers, and the general public.

The NRC conducts teacher workshops for K-16 educators in the DC area and nationwide to prepare teachers to incorporate diverse perspectives on Asian studies in their classrooms. The NRC seeks diverse voices to lead such workshops, and has hosted workshops with experts to talk about North Korean literature, the COVID-19 response in South Korean schools with a South Korean journalist, and to talk about U.S.-Japan relations with a Japanese visiting scholar. The NRC also builds curriculum materials, lesson plans, and resource guides that integrate diverse perspectives and disciplines to provide educators and students with critical and holistic lenses to interpret world affairs. The NRC organizes virtual speaker engagements through the Skype-A-scholar program, and hosts field trips for local high school students to engage international resources in the DC area, such as embassies and representative offices. The NRC publishes podcasts that addresses a wide array of topics to give platforms for new and rising voices in the field of Asian Studies and international affairs, including with Taiwan’s Digital Minister Audrey Tang (the world’s first openly transgender public official). 

The NRC is also helping to expand accessibility of East Asian Studies resources to wider audiences, and seeking to build meaningful relationships with MSIs and HBCUs. The NRC is actively participating in capacity-building activities with its HBCU partners – Spelman College and Morehouse College – and others to develop access to professional and academic opportunities for historically marginalized communities. Each year, the NRC hosts an East Asian Studies professional development workshop with Spelman College in which Spelman students and faculty are brought to Washington, DC for site visits, special lectures, and networking opportunities with Asian Studies experts and stakeholders. With support from the GW Institute for Korean Studies, the NRC plans to support interested Spelman College students to study abroad in South Korea along with GW students to enrich the student experience for GW and Spelman College.


Scholarship Opportunities

Across our three departments, we offer a variety of scholarship and study abroad opportunities for GW students which enhance their academic, professional, and personal lives. 

GWIKS, for example, sponsors both an annual Summer Study Abroad Program as well as an annual Undergraduate Research Fellows Program. The aim of the summer study abroad program is to invite GW students interested in studying Korea to visit various professional sites in South Korea. The program uses the border as a lens into exploring four main themes: Korean identities, division, reunification, and economic difference between the two Koreas through readings, discussions, on-site lectures, and site visits. Since 2017, at least 38% of student participants have been BIPOC, with this percentage growing to 88% in 2019. Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent cancellation of the 2020 program, GWIKS had planned to reserve a spot in the program for one student from Spelman College; however, the spot will still be reserved as planned for the upcoming 2021 program.

In addition, the Undergraduate Research Fellows Program connects select undergraduate students with GWIKS faculty members and policy experts to participate in a mentoring program, research workshops, and the annual GW-IU (Indiana University) conference. In 2019-20, 50% of those selected were BIPOC, with this percentage increasing to 58% in the current 2020-21 program. It continues to be a priority for GWIKS leadership not only to recruit students with an outstanding academic record to this program, but also those from a variety of racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

The Sigur Center has historically been an awardee of the U.S. Department of Education’s Title VI Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Awards. The FLAS awards have been distributed to a highly diverse pool of candidates from across GW since 2007 (41% BIPOC on average), with students receiving tuition assistance and living stipends in order to pursue language and area studies in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Moreover, the Sigur Center awards language and field research scholarships to an equally diverse body of students each year. With these scholarships, students have traveled from Taiwan to Indonesia to Pakistan to complete their language studies and Ph.D. research. Select faculty are likewise supported with annual research awards which have taken them from Singapore to India to Cambodia, among many other countries. Of these faculty, 48%, on average, have been BIPOC since 2007.

Community Support

Our faculty and staff are always innovating with regards to how to support the GW community and support the mission of the Elliott School in training the next generation of leaders in international affairs. To this end, we have traditionally had a staff representative in the Community Building Committee since 2014, as well as a staff representative on the Elliott School’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion since 2019.These staff have played critical roles in these groups in everything from organizing School-wide staff and faculty trainings on gender sensitivity, to releasing a diversity “action plan” outlining strategies to improve inclusivity based on existing data and resources.

We have also made it a core priority to hire and support the professional development of students from diverse academic and ethnic backgrounds. (For example, in the 2019-20 academic year, all eight of our Federal Work-Study student employees were BIPOC and/or female.) Moreover, in identifying faculty to invite for affiliation, the departments’ leadership has prioritized early-career faculty, and in particular those who are from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds in Asian Studies. Currently, of our affiliated faculty across all three institutes, over half are BIPOC, and our staff has historically been majority non-white (67% as of the 2020-21 academic year).

Finally, beginning in 2019, the Sigur Center has published a monthly Research and Grants newsletter for affiliated scholars, faculty, and students to address the plethora of barriers to early career, female, non-US citizens, and others to accessing research and publication opportunities in Asian Studies. The newsletter lists not only grant opportunities, but also calls for papers from international conferences and academic journals, and spotlights different faculty, scholars, and students to promote their achievements and the diversity of talent across Asian Studies at GW.


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