Wang Center grants turn the world into a classroom


Discovery 1024 427 Zach Powers '10

Throw a dart at a world map, and it’s likely to hit a location where Pacific Lutheran University students or faculty members have conducted research.

The Wang Center for Global Education offers grants that empower Lutes to pursue big questions all over the globe. This year, the funding is responsible for projects in nine countries across as many academic departments.

“Wang Center research grants offer our students vast opportunities to grow by turning the world into their classroom,” said Professor of Communication Joanne Lisosky, who received funding in 2012-13 to work with several students on a documentary about Islamophobia. “These students grapple with professional production standards, as well as human interactions with people who live their vocations every minute.”

During the 2016-17 academic year, grant recipients are conducting research in Canada, Mexico, Belgium, France, England, Ireland, Italy, Japan and Rwanda, representing research in the disciplines of education, communication, religion, history, biology, economics, music, global studies and anthropology. Subjects of the 10 projects include uranium mines, musical education and the history of alcohol.

Wang Center Executive Director Tamara Williams says the grant application process is competitive and scrupulous. It begins with a review process by the faculty-led Global Education Committee and ends with approval from the provost.

Investing in global education:


Research Grants


Global Scholar Awards

The Wang Center awards an average of $40,000 in research grants annually to PLU students and faculty members, as well as an annual average of $110,000 in Global Scholar Awards (study away scholarships) to students.

“The Wang Center research grants are generally designed for students in the advanced global education continuum,” Williams said. “Students who’ve taken globally focused courses, who have studied abroad, and are well equipped to go abroad and thrive and succeed on their own.”

Saiyare Refaei ’14 was awarded a Wang Center grant in 2013-14 and used it to return to Oaxaca, Mexico, where she previously studied away for a semester. She examined the impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on the formation and continuation of artist collectives there.

“My Wang Center research grant enabled me to expand the areas of interest I had in my Hispanic studies courses and semester in Oaxaca with my personal interests,” said Refaei, who earned a degree in environmental studies and now serves as PLU’s coordinator for sustainability integration. “Independent research projects provide the full experience and culture that the text can’t always teach us. We just have to be there living it out.”

Evan Heringer ’16, who earned a degree in communication, agrees. “There is nothing quite like getting in the field, doing the work that you are passionate about, and seeing first hand how important your vocation is to so many people,” said Heringer, a 2015-16 grant recipient. “That realization isn’t something that’s guaranteed inside of a classroom.”

Heringer was part of a student-faculty team of filmmakers associated with MediaLab, an Emmy Award-winning media organization housed in the Center for Media Studies. The team used the grant funding to produce a documentary about higher education titled “These Four Years.” The film won numerous awards, including the grand prize in the documentary category in the National Broadcasting Society Electronic Media Competition.

Williams says the experiences supported by Wang Center grants serve as final stepping stones for PLU students preparing for post-graduate endeavors.

“They’re high-value, high-impact projects for students at the end of their PLU experience to help prepare them for things like graduate school and Fulbright, Peace Corps, Marshall and Rhodes scholarships,” Williams said. “This is the opportunity for our top students to take their global education to the highest level PLU has to offer.”

Founders of the Wang Center for Global Education, Peter and Grace Wang

The Wang Center for Global Education opened in 2002 to fulfill the vision of donors Peter and Grace Wang.

Their endowment has emphasized the role education can play in building a more just, healthy, sustainable and peaceful world. The Wangs recognized an opportunity to further PLU’s academic reach, and their gift has helped prepare students for lives of leadership and service in an interconnected world.

Both are first-generation Americans. Peter Wang graduated from PLU in 1960, and later earned a Ph.D. in probability theory at Wayne State University in Detroit. Grace Wang also holds a Ph.D. from Wayne State, in chemistry.

Zach Powers '10

Zach Powers '10 is PLU's director of communications and editor of ResoLute. Prior to working in higher education, he worked in nonprofit marketing, managed a number of political campaigns and was a freelance writer for the Weekly Volcano, Tacoma Weekly, Anchorage Daily News and others.

All stories by:Zach Powers '10