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The Wang Center Celebrates Its Fifth Anniversary

Deep within the maze of the Wang Center’s third floor, Sunita Mukhi bobs a teabag into a paper cup, reflecting on what the Wang Center has brought to Stony Brook.

This year marks the fifth anniversary for the Wang Center.

To celebrate the occasion, Mukhi, Director of Asian and Asian American Studies, scheduled approximately twenty events ranging from an artist specializing in Buddhist paintings to an avant-garde musical group from Kazakhstan.

“The Wang Center is one of the best things that have happened to Stony Brook,” Professor Shikaripur Sridhar, founder of the Center for Indian Studies and chair of the Asian and Asian American Studies Department, said. “The programs have created a sensitive, high-class, positive awareness of the beauty of Asian and Asian American cultures.”

This awareness could be starting a movement. The Asian and Asian American Studies major is growing rapidly. In the past year, the undergraduate major increased by 48 percent.

“The Center allows Asian students a place to express their Asianess and [their] Americaness,” Mukhi said.

President Kenny’s five year plan also highlights expanding international curricula and connections by increasing the number of study abroad programs, creating permanent Stony Brook overseas-semester sites in areas such as China, India and Korea, and adding a “global perspectives” requirement to the education curriculum.

Asian students make up 22 percent of Stony Brook’s diverse undergraduate population.

The Wang Center is an “aesthetic vision,” as Mukhi put it. It’s “a place for students to sit, think, quite down, and chill out… in a more deeply spiritual way,” Mukhi said.

Mukhi said that the unique interior of the building, accented with fountains and spiral staircases, allows the building to be not only functional but playful.

The architecture and atmosphere of the Charles B. Wang Center are intertwined.

The building’s design is so vital that P.H. Tuan, the internationally recognized architect of the Wang Center, will be honored on Apr. 24 for his work. Tuan is the only honoree of the semester-long celebrations.

“The Wang Center should be a model for future buildings,” said Kai Lee Huang, a Japanese Studies minor. “It’s very well designed.”

However, not all of the events will focus on positive aspects of the culture.

On Feb. 25, the Center will show the documentary “Behind Forgotten Eyes.” This 75-minute film, with English subtitles, talks about the sexual enslavement of 200,000 Korean girls and women by the Japanese military between 1910 and World War II.

“The programs continually highlight the issues in a concrete, meaningful manner,” Sridhar said.

A second documentary on Mar. 31 titled “Terror’s Advocate”, looks at the career of Jacques Verges, a defense attorney for “some of history’s most vilified terrorists.”

The events will show “so many ways we are similar,” Mukhi continued. The programs hope to bring together different ethnic groups. “Such as a Latino being able to relate to a Korean performer who talks about family troubles.”

The goal is to show students of different backgrounds we are more similar than we are different because the programs are not only for people of Asian descent.

The Asian continent spans such a wide range, from the Pacific Islands to Turkey that Mukhi said that the goal is to enhance the campuses understanding of the continent in a three-dimensional way.

All the events will be in English, contain English subtitles or list program notes in English. “The idea is to give a memorable experience,” Mukhi said.

Some of the musical performances will be in foreign lanuages, such as the “Chai Found Chinese Chamber Music Workshop”, on Feb. 22, which will feature Chinese music. “But music is a universal language,” Mukhi said.

The Wang Center’s future is an ambitious one. Mukhi aspires to lift the Center to national and even international prestige. “I want the Wang Center to be Sundance,” Mukhi said.

She hope that the Wang Center will become a mecca for all things Asian.

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