A taste of South Asia for Bowdoin
This winter, the Asian Studies Program will be adding a new three week, half-credit course to its list of prospective classes.. The course examines group identities and inter-group conflict in South Asia. The class will give Bowdoin students the opportunity to explore a stimulating topic within contemporary world affairs.
Besides its subject matter, one of the more interesting aspects of the class is its professor, Gerald Peiris.. A Professor of Geography from the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka, Peiris is a source of global insight on South Asian issues. He has also taught and lectured at prominent universities around the world, and is currently writing a book that investigates inter-group discord in South Asia.
Although Peiris' academic experiences range across the globe, he also has a long-standing Bowdoin connection. For the past 20 years, Peiris has been a faculty member of the ISLE Program, a study away program in Sri Lanka that is popular with Bowdoin students. In the program, Peiris taught a class examining development and change in modern Sri Lanka. Peiris' upcoming course will bring an ISLE Program voice to Bowdoin, enabling the student body to reap the educational benefits of an international presence while staying on campus.
Professor Holt of the Religion Department initiated the addition of this new class and the arrival of Professor Peiris. Holt wanted to expand the school's curriculum and "bring the world to Bowdoin a bit more." Through Holt's discussions with Dean of Academic Affairs Craig McEwen and President Barry Mills, the idea of a class that focuses both on South Asia and is taught by a professor from South Asia emerged. Peiris' reputation with the ISLE Program made him an ideal candidate for this new position. Dean McEwen looks forward to the coming of Peiris and the option of a half-credit course. "The course that Professor Peiris will teach is not only a significant contribution in its own right, but is also a wonderful pioneering initiative to try out new ways to bring international scholars to teach at Bowdoin," he said. "If we assume that all courses must last a semester, we limit our capacity to invite visitors to enrich our curriculum."
Holt anticipates that Peiris' class will be "an international encounter and learning experience. The class involves a South Asian voice studying South-Asian problems, and is geared towards intellectually adventurous students who would like to understand problems generated in that part of the world."
Holt hopes that the college will continue to have international representatives in other departments. "It's a rare opportunity to take a course with someone from across the world," he said.