From the Director

Robert (Bob) Hefner, Director of the Center for the Study of Asia

Welcome to the Boston University Center for the Study of Asia! Since our founding in July 2008, BUCSA has promoted the study of Asia and fostered awareness of Asian and Asian-American cultures and current affairs at Boston University and in the broader Boston community. Asia—including East Asia, South Asia, South East Asia and Central Asia—is a vast and culturally rich region. With approximately 4 billion people and a combined GDP of over 50 trillion dollars, it accounts for approximately 60% of the world’s population and over 60% of the global economy. At the same time, while home to some of the world’s oldest civilizations, the vibrant cultures of the region have continued to evolve in new and exciting ways. Japanese anime, Korean K-pop, Indian Bollywood films, Indonesian dangdut music, and Chinese cinema—to mention just a few examples—today attract enthusiastic global audiences. As interest in Asia continues to grow, BUCSA has fostered a deeper appreciation of Asia through the sponsorship of lectures, symposia, exhibitions, and other events, as well as by supporting collaborative research ventures within and outside of the university.

This is also a year of several ongoing transitions. This past summer (2022) our founding Dean and fellow Asianist, Adil Najam, stepped down from the deanship of the Pardee School. We welcomed in his place Dr. Scott Taylor, who has come to BU after a distinguished career at Georgetown. BUCSA witnessed two no less significant transitions: Thomas Berger stepped down after four remarkably vital years as director of BUCSA. BUCSA’s long serving and creative Assistant Director, Wen-Hao Tien, also stepped down in August to dedicate herself more extensively to her beautiful artwork. We thank both Thomas and Wen-Hao for their dedication and vision. We will miss you both!

Over the course of the past few months, BU and BUCSA initiated a search to find a replacement for Wen-Hao. I am pleased to report that as of November 7, 2022, Dr. Maria Elena P. Rivera-Beckstrom will be joining BUCSA to serve as Assistant Director. Maria Elena is Filipino American and has worked in various universities, and in different capacities, before joining BU. She has published on Philippine history and legal culture and on women in organizations, and she has taught sociology and socio-legal courses. She earned her Ph.D. from the New School for Social Research and currently live in Swampscott with her husband Chris and Roscoe, their “rambunctious and sweet dog.” Maria Elena brings a wealth of administrative experience and vision to BUCSA and will be reaching out to faculty and students in the weeks to come. Welcome Maria Elena!

One area of continuity for which I am deeply grateful is that BUCSA continues to work closely with and enjoy the support of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Boston under the leadership of Director-General Jonathan C.Y. Sun. We work most closely with Director Cynthia Huang and Jessica Wung of the Education Division at TECO Boston and are most appreciative of their longstanding friendship and assistance. We hope to sign a new Taiwan Programs MOU with TECO early in the new year (2023) and expand the many educational and cultural activities TECO so generously supports.

Just before Thomas Berger stepped down, he organized a meeting of the BUCSA faculty where, as we do each year, we chose an annual theme. The theme this year is, “Place, Peace, Prosperity, Policy.” Its aim is to celebrate Asia and Asian studies as we pass from the turbulent years of covid and look forward to the region’s continuing recovery and vitality. I invite you to learn more about BUCSA and about the study of Asia at Boston University by exploring our website and subscribing to our Weekly Asian Studies Newsletter. We hope you will take advantage of our classes and events and join our vibrant community!  I invite faculty, students, and friends with interests or proposals for events to please contact me ( to share ideas and organize events. Now that we have the new administrative team in place, we also plan to have a welcome event in November. I thank everyone again for your interest and support – and look forward to seeing you soon!

Bob Hefner
Director, Center for the Study of Asia
Professor of Anthropology and International Relations