Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Norm Moline discusses Asian Studies history

Augustana’s Historical Society (AHS) recently hosted its spring talk, featuring speaker Norm Moline, Augustana’s emeritus professor of geography. On Wednesday, April 17, Moline discussed the history of the Asian Studies program at Augustana and how it became the program it is today. 

The talk covered the vast history of Asian Studies at Augustana, starting with a Religions of the World class, taught by Victor Pearson in 1943. 

In 1967, Augustana sent two professors, Ed Hamming and Ben Zobrist, to East Asia. This was the first time Augustana sent professors to Asia. 

A little over a decade later, Moline and Ralph Radloff were hired at Augustana in 1968 to teach Asian Studies. They were the first professors to be hired with the expectation to only teach about the continent of Asia. 

After hearing about students visiting Europe, professors Radloff, Jack Hullet, Glenn Ma and Moline wanted to take students to Asia. After a discussion with President Thomas Tredway and a vote, 60 students were able to go to Asia in 1974. 

“‘74 was the first one. We needed to get 60 to get the good airfare, and when this group has a reunion we praise them,” Moline said. “They were the pioneers. We needed 60 and we got just 60.”

Moline has been a director of all Asia trips up until 2013. Throughout the years, Moline has worked alongside different co-directors such as Hullet, James Winship and Marsha Smith. Moline has been able to take over 1,000 students and involve 27 faculty members from 18 different disciplines. 

The program has taken the basketball team, band ensembles, choir groups, alumni groups and classes on these trips. This program was something very unique to Augustana and hadn’t been seen in other colleges.  

“16 programs [with] over 1,150 students had full 11-week terms in East Asia, unparalleled in the United States for large or small schools to have. Now many people just couldn’t believe it,” Moline said. 

Moline said when students come back from these trips, they feel more motivated to take a foreign language. In 1995, Augustana approved a Chinese minor, and in 2013, a Japanese minor was added as well. 

“They would take those courses and learn a lot about the culture, even if they didn’t know the language,” Moline said. “Then the motivation for when [students] would come back to fill the foreign language requirement was based on, ‘I wanted to learn that because I realized I was deficient, not because the college said I had to take a foreign language.’”

Brian Leech, history professor and president of the AHS, set up the talk so people could hear about the background of the Asian Studies department at Augustana. 

“I think this is also kind of an important moment where the college started saying, ‘Let’s look beyond America, let’s actually take students there, let’s make that a priority for the college to invest time and energy into courses and hiring faculty who can teach courses on different places around the world, making a more global curriculum,’” Leech said.

This program has impacted and changed the lives of both students and faculty, such as Diane Carnithan. Carnithan discussed the impact that the program had on both herself and her daughter. 

“I had the honor of getting to go on one of those alumni trips, and my daughter went on the Asian Studies trip when she was here,” Carnithan said. “She was able to have an Asian minor, and she is using all those skills and those experiences. She has a wonderful job today and is traveling in various parts of the world, and what she gained from that program you just can’t put it into words. It was wonderful.”

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