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July 19, 2011

Stanford hosts female students from Asia in new summer program

Twenty-five women from South and Southeast Asia will spend the next month on campus studying the history of women in Western civilization and experiencing Stanford student life as they prepare to become leaders in Asia and beyond.

"Educating women for leadership roles is both just and beneficial to society," said Richard Saller, dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, who will teach the group this summer. "Stanford is delighted to welcome these students."

The women are first- and second-year undergraduates at the Asian University for Women (AUW), a new liberal arts college in Chittagong, Bangladesh. The residential university, which will graduate its inaugural class in 2013, admits students entirely based on merit and provides need-based financial aid. AUW seeks to provide an elite education leading to a bachelor's degree to women from diverse backgrounds, including those who are the first in their families to attend college.

The university's 412 students come from 12 countries and regions: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Palestine, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Eventually, the student body is expected to grow to about 3,000 women.

Most undergraduates first attend a yearlong program called the Access Academy, which provides education in calculus, English, world history and geography, computing and karate to boost the students' ability to succeed in college. 

Stanford's ties with AUW 

Stanford, which is expanding its presence in the region through its reinvigorated Center for South Asia, has been associated with AUW since 2007, when founder Kamal Ahmad met Provost John Etchemendy.

In 2008, Stanford agreed to send post-doctoral fellows to teach core introductory courses at AUW. Last fall, for example, autism expert Lucina Uddin, an instructor at Stanford's School of Medicine, designed and taught an interdisciplinary course called The Mind that examined the relationship between language and thought. This spring, Se-Woong Koo, a fellow at the Ho Center for Buddhist Studies, taught Introduction to Asian Religions through Art.

From July 17 to Aug. 13, Dean Saller will teach a four-week course at Stanford titled, The History of Family and Women in Western Civilization. Teaching assistants will hold daily discussion sections and writing workshops. The students also will learn about leadership from scientists such as Persis Drell, director of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, who will speak at 5 p.m. on July 26 in the students' campus dorm, and from ecologist Gretchen Daily, director of the Center for Conservation Biology, who will speak in the same location at 5 p.m. on Aug. 4.

"The idea is to expose the students to faculty thought leaders on campus," said Saller, a member of AUW's International Council of Advisors. "Unlike vocational training, a liberal arts education is about creative and analytic thinking that prepares students to address challenges and to lead." 

More facts about the Asian University for Women

  • A hallmark of AUW's institutional identity is its charter, the first of its kind in the region, which the parliament of Bangladesh approved and ratified in 2006. The charter guarantees institutional autonomy, academic freedom, policies of non-discrimination and independence from political interference.
  • The Stanford summer program is funded by an AUW board member.



Lisa Trei, School of Humanities and Sciences:

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