Published: June 28, 2021 By

It will be no news to anyone that 2021 has proven to be a year of change and transition. As we take our first tentative steps out of our quarantine homes where we’ve hunkered down for the past 16 months, we are eager to apply lessons we’ve learned during the pandemic, reengage in the in-person events we’ve missed, and reconnect with our colleagues near and far without the ever-present mediation of screens and apps.

At the Center for Asian Studies we find ourselves experiencing various personnel transitions as well. Please take a moment to help us welcome our new arrivals and say goodbye to those who are moving on to new opportunities.

First, Tim Oakes has completed his second full term as CAS faculty director and will return to his position as a professor of geography on July 1. Tim has led CAS for the past nine years with a great deal of vision and commitment to expanding access to Asia to an ever-growing pool of CU students, faculty members, and members of the broader Denver-Boulder community. Tim leaves CAS a more robust and expansive organization than he found it when he took the helm in 2012, and although we will miss his presence in our day-to-day operations, we know that he will continue to serve as one of CAS’ strongest allies and biggest supporters among the CU faculty.

We are fortunate to be welcoming Rachel Rinaldo, an associate professor of sociology, to assume the CAS faculty directorship following Tim’s departure. Rachel has been at CU since 2015 and has previously served on the CAS Executive Committee (2017-2020) and on the steering committee for our Southeast Asian Studies grant from the US Department of Education. She has also served as the Graduate Chair for the Sociology department (2019-21). Rachel's research focuses primarily on gender and social change in Southeast Asia, specifically Indonesia. Her current project focuses on marriage and divorce in Java, and how shifts in gender and religion are reshaping these institutions, particularly among the Muslim community. She is also studying the contemporary art scene in the region. Rachel looks forward to continuing to build on CAS’ strengths and successes, further cementing CAS as a draw for faculty and students from across the West and leveraging the expertise CAS offers, both on campus and beyond. A future blog post will include more details about Rachel’s plans for CAS over the coming year.

Darren Byler, who has served as a postdoctoral fellow since January 2020 for the CAS China Made Project funded by The Henry Luce Foundation, has accepted a position as an assistant professor in the School for International Studies at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada. He has also been awarded a prestigious Luce/ACLS Program in China Studies Early Career Fellowship, which will allow him to work on his research project, “Thinking with Violence: Narratives of Reeducation Camps & Infrastructural State Power in Northwest China,” over the 2021-22 academic year. Darren’s book In the Camps: China’s High-Tech Penal Colony was just published by Columbia Global Reports.

Nancy Johnsen, who served as Finance and Grant Assistant for CAS and its Program for Teaching East Asia since January 2020, has transferred to a position in the Environmental Studies program at CU-Boulder. In Nancy’s place, Adrienne O’Connell, Program Coordinator for the Department of Religious Studies, is joining CAS a few hours each week to assist us with financial and HR matters. We are particularly appreciative to our colleagues at Religious Studies  for sharing Adrienne with us and with Adrienne herself for helping us keep these important tasks moving!

Dian Sawitri recently completed an unorthodox Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) program term with CAS. Dian took courses and taught our Beginning and Intermediate Indonesian language courses remotely in the fall when international travel slowed to a standstill. Fortunately, she was able to make it to Boulder in January and taught her classes in person in the spring semester. Although she was not able to engage in the full complement of community-building activities that FLTAs usually carry out during their programs, she was invaluable in drafting syllabi that will allow us to offer a minimum of two full years of Indonesian classes for credit beginning in AY 2021-22. Dian was always willing to give her best despite trying circumstances and we will continue to count her as a friend of CAS long after her return to Bali.

Akhmad Taufik has been selected as our new FLTA for 2021-22, and we anticipate that he will arrive from Samarinda on Borneo in August. Taufik is an English teacher in Indonesia and is also interested in sharing Indonesian cuisine, fashion, dance, and handcrafts with his students and the CU/Boulder community during his term. We look forward to welcoming him when he arrives and working with him to further expand the Indonesian language and culture offerings at CU while he is here. Interested students can enroll in INDO 1110 Beginning Indonesian I or INDO 2110 Intermediate Indonesian I to work with Taufik this fall.

Lauren Yapp, instructor and Asian Studies program director, has been offered and accepted a position with the Urban Studies Program at Brown University. To wrap up her time here, Lauren recently published the Spring 2021 issue of the Colorado Journal of Asian Studies. Lauren was a valuable member of the Asian Studies team during her year at CU, and she will be greatly missed.

Lauren Collins will be joining us for the 2021-22 academic year as a temporary instructor to teach ASIA 2000 Gateway to Asian Studies, ASIA 4200 Politics of Memory and Heritage in Asia, and ASIA 4500 Urban Asia: Tradition, Modernity, Challenges in the fall and additional classes in the spring. Lauren received her PhD in 2019 from the University of Denver and joins us from the University of Montana, where she has been teaching in the Davidson Honors College.

Thanks to a grant from the US Department of Education, CAS has been able to create a new Instructor of Tibet and Himalayan Studies position which will be filled by Tenzin Tsepak this fall. Tsepak comes to us from Indiana University, where he has just completed his PhD in Central Eurasian Studies. Tsepak will be teaching ASIA 1700 Introduction to Tibetan Civilization; ASIA 4300 Open Topics in Asian Studies – Encounters: Tibet, the Himalayas and the West; TBTN 1110 Colloquial Tibetan I; and TBTN 1210 Modern Literary Tibetan I. Check out these great new courses!

As you can see, there is never a dull moment at CAS. We will do our best to introduce our new additions on campus this fall and hope you will help us welcome them. And we bid those who are leaving us a fond farewell, but know that our paths will cross again, whether via Zoom or in the flesh. It is cheering to have so many friends of CAS tucked away in various corners of the world. Until we meet again!