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Centennial Celebration

The Barbour Scholarship program was originally endowed by Levi Barbour in 1917 to support female graduate students from Asia and the Middle East.

Thank you to all who helped make the Barbour Centennial Celebration a success! We are pleased to have spent two days connecting Barbour alumnae with current Scholars as they shared the broad scope of their international experiences across generations. Through the events of the celebration, Barbour Scholars re-familiarized themselves with U-M’s campus, inspired the audiences who had the privilege to hear them speak publicly, and shared the lessons they’ve learned since leaving the University of Michigan.

The two-day celebration kicked off with a lecture titled “Asian Studies at the University of Michigan: A Brief History” from Professor Donald Lopez, Chair of Asian Languages and Cultures. He emphasized the historical context of Levi Barbour generous gift, including how revolutionary a gift of this kind was at a time when the world was far from peaceful and international relations were complicated. He spoke of Regent Barbour’s trip to China—the trip where he met the women who inspired his gift and talked about U-M President Angell’s support of Asian education. He noted the importance of understanding the happenings of the world at that time and the ways in which the University played a pivotal role in global relations. Professor Lopez also elaborated on the views of women’s education through the years.

In Celebration of the Barbour Scholars

A Brief History of Asian Studies at the University of Michigan by Donald S. Lopez Jr.

Barbour alumnae and current Scholars also had the opportunity to take a campus tour and visit UMMA (the University of Michigan Museum of Art). An extra special part of the UMMA tour included a Chinese ceramic piece titled Tomb Guardian donated by Barbour alumna, Jiu-Hwa Lo Upshur.

One of the highlights of the Centennial Celebration was the student and alumnae panel titled “100 Years of Opportunity: Asian Women’s Global Engagement.” Five panelists, Dr. Meera Sampath, Dr. Heasook Rhee, Dr. Wing Li, and Ph.D. candidates Niloufar Emami and Amrita Dhar, shared their experiences as Barbour Scholars, as well as what it was like to travel to the United States from their home countries to pursue a U-M education. Dr. Rhee spoke of how unusual and quite frankly unheard of it was for an unmarried Korean woman to travel to the United States, on her own, to attend school. Amrita spoke of how deeply humbled she was to be in the presence of such accomplished women and reflected on the moments in her life when gender inequality became clear to her, thus becoming a motivating factor in her life. Dr. Sampath said, “The Barbour Scholarship was the first thing to instill a spirit of giving in me” and noted that her experience has inspired her to turn times of turmoil into opportunities for action.

To conclude, the Rackham Graduate School hosted a celebratory dinner during which Interim Dean Michael Solomon presented Barbour Scholars and alumnae with pins resembling those worn by Scholars in the 1930s. The dinner served as one last opportunity for informal conversation and sharing of experiences among current Scholars, alumnae, Rackham staff, and others in attendance.

While each of the Barbour Scholars had varying experiences, each of their anecdotes shared a common theme—they were all incredibly grateful. They expressed being thankful for not only the endowment established by Levi Barbour 100 years ago, but also the welcoming nature of Ann Arbor, the opportunity to study at the University of Michigan, and the chance to connect with Scholars who came before and after them. Many of these admirable women commented on their hopes for the next 100 years of the Barbour Scholarship.

Centennial Committee

Nine Barbour Scholar alumnae are assisting with the 2017 Barbour Centennial Celebrations to celebrate and honor Barbour Scholars. We thank them for their invaluable contributions to the creation of meaningful events that commemorate 100 years of incredible accomplishments. If you are a Barbour Scholar Alumna interested in joining the Centennial Advisory Committee, please contact us at [email protected].

  • Dr. Xuezhao Lan, 2009, Ph.D. Education, Psychology
  • Dr. Sudipa Topdar, 2010, Ph.D. History
  • Dr. Veronica Nieva, 1976, Ph.D. Psychology
  • Dr. Usha Lakshmanan, 1989, Ph.D. Linguistics
  • Ms. Airan Liu, 2017, Ph.D. Candidate Public Policy and Sociology
  • Ms. Amrita Dhar, 2017, Ph.D. Candidate English Language and Literature
  • Ms. Po-Ju Chen, 2019, Ph.D. Candidate Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
  • Dr. Hsiu-Chuan Lee, 1997, Ph.D. Comparative Literature
  • Ms. Ziyong Lin, 2018, Ph.D. Candidate Psychology