South Asia is one of the largest geographic areas in the world, and some students feel that the Department of South Asia Studies at Penn is in need of expansion.
As a result, students have formed an Undergraduate Advisory Board to address the need for more faculty in the department. Currently, there are UAB’s for departments including History, Anthropology and English.
Penn’s Department of South Asia Studies was founded in 1948 and is the oldest of its kind in the country, according to the department’s web site, but College senior Roopa Gogineni feels that its prominence has been declining in recent years.
Gogineni became aware of the need for more South Asia Studies faculty when she wanted to write a thesis on the region.
“As a history major, I wasn’t able to write a history thesis on South Asia because there was no history faculty to advise me,” Gogineni said.
Gogineni has been at the forefront of the formation of the UAB, which is composed of representatives from four South Asia-interest groups on campus: Sangam, the South Asia Society, the Asian Pacific Student Coalition and the Penn Pakistan Society.
She added that the current South Asia Studies faculty has been very supportive of its students by financing and attending various student-organized events, such as the ‘Chai Chats’ organized by Sangam.
Department chairman Daud Ali wrote in an e-mail that enrollment in South Asia Studies courses has increased by more than 300 percent this year.
“As a department which has seen huge transition in the recent past and which is currently rethinking its curriculum, we have been making serious efforts to reach out to our students through meetings and surveys,” he wrote. “We have been delighted and even overwhelmed at the response.”
Wharton and College junior Rohan Grover, APSC chairman and UAB representative, added that one of the UAB’s main goals is to express the need for more South Asia Studies faculty to the University administration.
“In the short run, we need to address this pressing need and ensure that the department will continue to be supported by the University,” Grover said.
“This can be applied to any program or department that students feel invested in … especially racial, ethnic, gender or area studies,” he added.
College sophomore Nick Singh, who is a South Asia Studies major, wrote in an e-mail that the department could benefit from having faculty in different specializations related to South Asia.
“As countries like India become increasingly powerful players in the modern world, it’s essential that Penn increases the classes and faculty specializing in this area so that people can better understand the affairs of the world as a whole,” Singh wrote in an e-mail.
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