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Asia Foundation Trustees Elected as New Board Co-Chairs of the Henry Luce Foundation

Wednesday, September 14th, 2022

September 14, 2022 — The Henry Luce Foundation recently elected Asia Foundation trustees Terry Adamson and Debra Knopman as co-chairs of their Board of Directors. The Luce Foundation is a long-time partner of The Asia Foundation in promoting leadership development through the Luce Scholars Program. Launched in 1974, the Luce Scholars Program is a unique exchange American-Asian exchange program that builds on both organizations’ commitment to building understanding and strengthening the relationship between the United States and Asia. Following the decision of Margaret Boles Fitzgerald to step down as Chair of the Henry Luce Foundation after twenty years of leadership, the Board of Directors has elected two members, Terry Adamson and Debra Knopman, to serve as Co-Chairs for the next five years. As Luce Scholars alumni and long-serving members of the Board, Terry and Debra bring extensive expertise in their respective fields as well as deep knowledge of the Foundation and its history to their new role.

The Asia Foundation Announces the 2021-2022 Luce Scholars

Monday, March 29th, 2021

March 29, 2021 — After a three-month remote selection process, The Henry Luce Foundation and The Asia Foundation are delighted to announce the 2021–2022 class of Luce Scholars. This year, nominations came from over 70 participating colleges and universities screened by program staff from a dozen non-affiliated campuses. More than 160 applicants contended for 18 spots in the new class. The Luce Scholars Program has long been dedicated to enhancing equity, diversity, and inclusion; the Foundation is proud to welcome the most diverse cohort in the program’s history. Each year, the Luce Scholars Program provides young Americans who have great leadership potential but little exposure to Asia with a year-long immersive experience in the region. The professional, cultural, and linguistic challenges they encounter are central to the Luce experience and help the scholars grow personally and professionally. They develop a sophisticated understanding of a dynamic region that is critical to the United States’ future and gain a new perspective of the world. In 2020, scholars not only had to adapt to new geographies, languages, and cultures, but they also were tasked with navigating the effects of the pandemic. As repercussions from the Covid-19 pandemic continue to unfold, much remains uncertain. The Luce Scholars Program is committed to working with the scholars—individually and as a cohort—by providing them with flexible and personalized support. More than ever, the United States needs a new generation of leaders who deeply understand Asia, and can build bridges and work effectively with their counterparts and communities in Asia. Learn more about the Luce Scholars Program and the 2021-2022 class. The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our work across the region addresses five overarching goals—strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote international cooperation. Read more about the Foundation’s work. For media inquiries, please visit our  News Room. Engage with us on Facebook, Twitter,  LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Notes from the Field: Luce Scholar Interrupted

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020

When Luce Scholar Davis Butner fled Shanghai ahead Covid-19 travel restrictions, he took only his dufflebag and a set of indelible impressions of a city he calls “a boiling hotpot of overlapping daily routines and paradoxical interactions.” 

Meet the 2020-2021 Class of Luce Scholars

Friday, February 28th, 2020

San Francisco, February 28, 2020 — Today, The Asia Foundation and the Henry Luce Foundation announce the 2020-2021 class of Luce Scholars. The Luce Scholars Program promotes and broadens an awareness of Asia among young future leaders by fully supporting a year-long professional placement in one of 19 Asian countries. The Asia Foundation has administered the program in partnership with the Henry Luce Foundation since the program’s inception in 1974. From 165 candidates, a diverse cohort of 18 Luce Scholars have been chosen after a three-month-long selection process which concluded in early February. Among the new scholars is an active-duty servicewoman in the U.S. Coast Guard College Pre-Commissioning Initiative; a trumpet player who uses generative artificial intelligence to design musical instruments; a senior research analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York who stress-tests financial institutions for the health of the U.S. financial system; and a Muslim-American who works for the New York Police Department and studies government response towards extremism. From creative writing and visual arts, to economics and health policy, and biomechanics and neuro-engineering, the breadth of the scholars’ passions and experiences, along with their intersecting interests and experiences, will expose each individual to new perspectives and opportunities for growth. Increasing environmental and climate-related risks are a central concern for the scholars’ generation, as they work to build climate resilience from a wide range of vantage points: human-centered design; transportation and urban planning; sustainable development; climate-induced migration and domestic worker rights; environmental justice and public health; investigative reporting; and sustainable textile production. Cohort learning is a significant part of the Luce Scholars Program, and we look forward to seeing the 2020-2021 cohort’s collaborations. On June 14th, the 2020-2021 class of Luce Scholars will begin their orientation in New York and embark on their journey to Asia. We are thrilled to welcome them to the program and excited to see how Asia will help them envision bold new ways to transform their fields—and themselves. Melanie Arroyave (Rutgers University, 2020) is an active-duty service woman in the US Coast Guard College Pre-Commissioning Initiative and a Labor Studies & Employment… Read more

Luce Scholars 2018-2019

Wednesday, January 1st, 2020

The 2018-2019 Luce Scholars arrived in Asia at the end of June 2019 for two months of intensive language classes and then began professional placements with host institutions in Asia from early September 2019 through June 20, 2020. The 18 Scholars were chosen from a competitive pool of nominations by 70 colleges and universities across the United States. Their placements in Asia reflected their diverse backgrounds and included institutions such as the International Centre for Environmental Management (ICEM) in Hanoi, Vietnam, the Mehrangarh Museum Trust in Jodhpur India, and the Asian Center for Women’s Studies in Seoul, Korea. In October, 2018 the Luce Scholars convened for a mid-year assessment program in Krabi, Thailand. In July, 2019, The Asia Foundation coordinated the Focus Country wrap-up meeting held in China – Taiwan and Hong Kong S.A.R. A dinner was held onboard the Aqua Luna in Hong Kong to close the wrap-up programs. A program of The Henry Luce Foundation, it has been overseen and implemented in Asia by The Asia Foundation since its inception in 1974.

A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

A Conversation with Jason DeParle “The two main themes of Filipino Overseas Worker life are homesickness and money,” writes New York Times reporter and two-time Pulitzer finalist Jason DeParle early in his new book, A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves. As a Henry Luce Scholar in the mid-1980s, with no previous experience in Asia, DeParle was placed for a year in Manila by The Asia Foundation, where he found himself writing grants for an activist nun. Restless, and searching for a better understanding of poverty, DeParle was introduced to Tita Comodas and her family, who invited him to live with them in the shantytown of Leveriza. His year-long fellowship was the beginning of more than three decades of reporting on Tita and her husband, children, and grandchildren as they came to embody the rise of global migration. At the heart of the story is Rosalie, Tita’s middle child, who becomes a nurse and lands jobs in Jeddah, Abu Dhabi, and, finally, Texas. The book is a chronicle of success against overwhelming odds, but also of painful sacrifice, as Rosalie and her fellow labor migrants endure years of separation from their families, watching their children grow up over the internet as they work to give them a better life. At a time when migration is central to global politics, DeParle offers a human portrait, backed by extensive research, of one extended family and their part in what he calls “the world’s largest antipoverty program.” He joined us recently to talk about his new book. Jason, how did you meet Rosalie, the central figure in this story?  I got to the Philippines in 1986 as a Luce Scholar. I went to Manila because I was interested in shantytowns, and I asked a prominent nun if she would help me find a family who might be willing to let me move in. Leveriza is one of the city’s oldest squatter areas. Some of its residents could recall childhoods spent there before World War II, when it was still a mudflat. Emet Comodas was away as a guest worker in Saudi Arabia. His… Read more

The Women of Kundan and Meenakari

Wednesday, June 5th, 2019

India is known for its rich culture of adornment and fine gold work, yet almost all goldsmiths are male. In a country that rigidly observes traditional gender roles, women are often occupied with domestic work, while the practice of jewelry making belongs almost exclusively to the male realm. The community that has been making gold jewelry for generations fears that if men teach their wives and daughters their trade, it may give them a level of independence that will destabilize the traditional family structure. As an American metalsmith studying the art of kundan jewelry making, I repeatedly find myself in conversation and collaboration with male jewelers. My many months at the jeweler’s bench made me curious if there were any female master jewelers. If so, what are the circumstances that allowed them to learn the trade? I found some answers in Jaipur, where I met the women of the Kala family, most notably the award-winning kundan jeweler Tulsi Kala. Kundan jewelry is unique to India, a Persian art form that came to India via the Mughal invasion in the 16th century and has been practiced here ever since. Kundan means 24k fine gold. It is a process of using thin sheets of gold, or kundan as it is called, and packing them around the gems with iron tools. The layers of compacted gold sheets are mechanically hardened by kneading, and then delicately carved with iron chisels. The process of making kundan jewelry is a specialized skill within the goldsmithing community, one that is traditionally practiced by men. Tulsi Kala learned the art of kundan from the age of 14 at the encouragement of her older brother and teacher, Ram Chandra Kala, who had unusually open views in the 1980s compared to his peers. In 1998, Tulsi was the first female in India to be nationally recognized for her kundan jewelry, an honor that she calls one of her proudest moments, and an affirmation of the quality of her work. She specializes in kundan work in jade, creating Mughal-inspired gold floral motifs studded with rubies, emeralds, and diamonds. Saroj Kala, Tulsi’s… Read more

Myanmar: Women Breaking and Making the Rules

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018

I was on the grounds of a textile factory an hour outside Mandalay, Myanmar. It was July 2017—peak monsoon season—and the combination of rain, heat, and an overnight bus ride from Yangon had left me soaked. I was sitting on a small rattan bench in the living room of Zarchi Win, surrounded by all the women in her family, who were all talking at once. Zarchi, in her 40s, was wearing a hot-pink htamein top and skirt and traditional thanaka face paint on her cheeks. Through the window I spied her parked motorcycle, still an unusual possession for women in Myanmar. There’s a popular idea, perpetuated by colonialists, Western travelers, and national historians, that women in Myanmar have long enjoyed status equal to men. I have heard this myself from Burma experts who didn’t understand why I, a gender policy specialist, wanted to go to Myanmar. But historian Tharaphi Than, author of Women in Modern Burma, has a different view. There have been a few powerful women in Myanmar, she argues, but their stories, told again and again, have crowded out the stories of the unequal majority. Yet, as I was also beginning to learn, Myanmar has a rich history of women who refused to play by the rules—journalists who kept writing, artists who kept painting, and soldiers who kept serving their country even when they were attacked, dismissed, and demeaned. Which is why I was here in Mandalay, to gather those less-told stories of remarkable women, past and present, for a children’s book that would inspire a new generation of Myanmar girls to dream big. Zarchi observed me looking around. “I grew up running around this factory,” she said. Her mother worked here for 40 years, and when she retired, Zarchi joined the factory, becoming, like many young women in Myanmar’s booming garment industry, her family’s principal earner, at age 18. “I liked being a factory worker,” she said. But then the factory changed hands, and working conditions plummeted. By 2016, Zarchi had had enough. With no political connections, no organizing experience, and everything to lose, she organized several… Read more

Luce Scholars Program: Opening Future Leaders’ Eyes to Asia for Over Four Decades

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

The Luce Scholars Program promotes and broadens an awareness of Asia among young future leaders. Launched in 1974, the program targets highly qualified young Americans—under the age of 29—across a variety of professional fields such as international relations, journalism, the arts, law, environmental studies, medicine, science, and public health. The Asia Foundation has administered the program in Asia since its inception more than four decades ago. When photographer and journalist Ted Alcorn first arrived in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, as a Luce Scholar invited to document an Asia Foundation project that promotes tolerance and civic values in secondary schools, what he discovered was not what he expected. His assignment in 2011 took him to rural Indonesian Islamic schools where he would meet with teachers and students engaged in the peace-promoting project. He was prepared for a sheltered, conservative religious environment, likely cut off from the secular world. He recalls instead going into the school dorms and witnessing a strong spirit of openness and acceptance, and then looking up and seeing football flags from team Barcelona, Chelsea, and Manchester United prominently displayed on the walls. “They aren’t living in a bubble, they are young kids living in a globalized world—just like all of us.” Challenging expectations and expanding understanding of Asia among young, future leaders like Alcorn is at the heart of the Luce Scholars Program. As the program’s founder, Henry R. Luce, creator and publisher of Time-Life Magazine, put it when he launched the magazine: “To see life. To see the world. To watch the faces of the poor, and the gestures of the proud. To see strange things. … To see and be amazed.” That is the essence of the Luce Scholars Program. When I had the privilege of being selected a Luce Scholar in 1975, and was sent to the Philippines, it fundamentally changed my life in more ways than I could ever have imagined. I worked on the ground as a television correspondent in the Philippines, seeing these amazing things that Henry Luce had predicted. It opened doors to ways of seeing the world and forever informed my work,… Read more

Asia Foundation’s 2017 Lotus Leadership Awards Honor Nobel Prize Laureate Amartya Sen and Henry Luce Foundation

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

New York City, October 4, 2017 — The Asia Foundation will honor Nobel Prize Laureate Amartya Sen and The Henry Luce Foundation at the seventh annual Lotus Leadership Awards Gala in New York City on Thursday, October 12. The awards gala is hosted annually by the Asia Foundation’s Lotus Circle, a vibrant community of philanthropists that supports The Asia Foundation’s Women’s Empowerment Program in its work to advance women’s rights and opportunities in Asia; and is attended by leaders in the philanthropic, diplomatic, and business communities. Proceeds from the evening will support innovative Asia Foundation projects designed to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality in the region. Former ABC 20/20 correspondent Lynn Sherr, who has reported on women’s issues for 30 years, will host the 2017 gala. Amartya Sen’s work in the field of development economics and social indicators, among other areas, has had considerable influence in understanding the root causes of inequality and the impact on societies, economies, and human rights. Dr. Sen’s research on gender inequality has closely looked at discrimination against women and girls and women’s agency in the process of social development. The Asia Foundation’s Women’s Empowerment Program Director Jane Sloane said although women and girls in Asia have accomplished gains, “enormous challenges remain and many women do not have a voice in decisions that affect their lives. Professor Sen’s landmark research addresses the root causes of gender inequality and he continues to advocate for women to have voice and agency.” The Asia Foundation is a committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Working across 18 countries tackling complex issues, the organization is on the forefront of women’s empowerment and gender equality, and supporting women’s active participation in social, economic, and political life. The Asia Foundation’s unique funding model allows philanthropists involved in the Lotus Circle to directly support innovative projects that advance women’s educational and economic opportunities, encourage their political participation, and protect their rights and security. An example of this is the investment provided to a women-owned social enterprise in India called SafetiPin, to launch a free app in India that… Read more