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Do you know the way to Sanata Dharma?

Holy Cross prepares to make Indonesia  "come alive on campus."

By Phyllis Hanlon

S.  Rodgers, Fr. Kuzniewski, Ibu Ria Lestari of the language center, Rev. Budi Susanto and M. Géracht at Sanata DharmaWesterners often have exotic images of Indonesia, visions that link this Southeast Asian country to other so-called "tropical paradises."  Strains of Balinese gamelan music filtering through open bedroom windows; warm, moist breezes blowing through lush gardens replete with orchids; goldfish swimming lazily in a pool surrounded by green rice paddies-these and similar exoticized visions constitute the Indonesia of the more clichéd sectors of international tourism. The reality of this complex, modernizing country is quite different: The world's largest Muslim nation, Indonesia is a cosmopolitan crossroads-a place that is very much part of Asia's "tiger economies" with their current problems and potentials following the Southeast Asia-wide currency crisis of 1997. The sights and sounds that will greet Holy Cross students who participate in a new study abroad program with Universitas Sanata Dharma, a Jesuit college located in Yogyakarta, Central Java, will not be the touristic imageries of "tropical island" life but rather the more meaningful, realistic portraits of a country emerging boldly from economic and political hardship into genuine democracy and human rights reform.

This past January a four-person Holy Cross contingent traveled to Indonesia to forge an academic, cultural, religious and Library of Congress partnership with this extraordinary Jesuit university and also with wider Indonesia.

"This blossoming relationship with Indonesia had its roots in 1996 when Susan Rodgers, an anthropologist and chair of the Holy Cross sociology and anthropology department, made initial contact with administrators and faculty at Sanata Dharma," says Stephen C. Ainlay, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College. On each of her subsequent trips to Indonesia to conduct research on Sumatran literature and art, Rodgers nurtured a potential alliance with the Central Javanese university, in concert with members of the Sanata Dharma staff, including its president, Rev. Michael Sastrapratedja, S.J., and Rev. Priyono Marwan, S.J., a psychologist and head of the University's international studies program. Maurice A. Géracht, director of the Holy Cross study abroad program, and Rev. Anthony Kuzniewski, S.J., professor of history and rector of the Holy Cross Jesuit community, accompanied Rodgers and Ainlay on the 20-hour flight to Singapore and three locales in Indonesia: the capital of Jakarta, arts-rich Bali and the university town of Yogyakarta. Yogyakarta is a center of higher education for the entire country, home to over 15 colleges and universities, including major medical and law schools. Yogya (as it is often known) is the desired destination of many Indonesian young people planning to attend college. A draw for writers, artists, educators and religious scholars of both Islam and Christianity, Yogya is the country's intellectual heart.

This trip to Indonesia offered the Holy Cross group the chance to witness what students will experience during their semester-long residence. According to Géracht, Yogyakarta offers a "good blend of modern and traditional life"-the chance to see university arts performances as well as rituals and temple ruins such as Borobodur (a major Buddhist shrine). Ainlay adds that Yogya street scenes are constant reminders of Year 2000 Asian realities: buffalo carts rumbling past Internet cafes and street food stalls competing with a McDonald's downtown. While walking through the city, the visitors observed that small-scale commerce (for instance, batik cloth production) has sturdily survived Indonesia's recent sweeping economic changes. "We saw elderly people as active market sellers," notes Ainlay, a sociologist with research interests in aging. The group toured the campus and a Catholic teaching hospital as well as some Indonesian homes where Holy Cross students will reside during their stay. "This is quite a complex program," says Ainlay. Noting that there is "an elaborate support system" that includes experienced language instructors, faculty advisors and housing supervisors, he adds,  "We were reassured by the situation there." This sentiment was echoed by Rev. James J. Spillane, S.J., a longtime Sanata Dharma economics professor.

"The institution is first-class, with a new library that boasts state-of-the-art equipment. The school has an online catalog and computers that rival those at any American university," says Ainlay. The institution dates to 1955, when Jesuits and lay scholars founded a teacher-training college with five departments. Sanata Dharma, Yogya's only Jesuit university, is now fully accredited by the Indonesian government as a full-scale university. It includes programs in Indonesian and English literature, religion, philosophy, accounting, economics, tourism management, anthropology, history, psychology, guidance and counseling, mathematics and physics. 

Holy Cross students will take several hours of intensive Indonesian language instruction each day, gaining a full year of work in one semester. Georgetown University-trained linguist Ria Lestari directs the intensive language program. Géracht feels that living with host families who reinforce the language will also assist in the students' total integration into the culture, a hallmark of Holy Cross' distinctive approach to study abroad. "In this way the students will be able to navigate around the city within a couple of weeks," says Géracht.

Géracht and Rodgers both gave research lectures to Sanata Dharma faculty. Géracht is anxious to expand the Holy Cross student community toward Asia. "Our students need the exposure to non-Western religions and politics. They need to see a different way of life and culture," he says. Holy Cross currently offers study abroad opportunities in England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Mexico, Russia, Peru, Japan, China, Sri Lanka and Cameroon. 

Géracht, who credits Acting President Frank Vellaccio with what he calls "the Holy Cross signature study abroad program," notes that 12 years ago the institution's approach still mirrored that of other American schools with a reliance on programs that were "for Americans, run by Americans, and that deal with American experience." Vellaccio insisted on a more innovative, intellectually and socially challenging engagement with foreign cultures. In the typical Holy Cross program, students are fully integrated into the host institution, taking regular courses and eschewing "American Studies Institutes." Students live with host families, immersed in local language worlds. Géracht believes that forging a bond with Sanata Dharma University will further the "internationalization of Holy Cross resources" and help link the college to global communities, reminding us that "where we live is only a center, not the center." 

Holy Cross students based at Sanata Dharma will also be able to take advantage of an extraordinary arts and performance opportunity: Yogya's superb national arts, drama and music conservatory (Institut Seni Indonesia) will arrange for tutorial courses for visiting Holy Cross students.

According to Rodgers, in U.S. academia, funding for major Southeast Asian initiatives is rare. She explains that small institutions vie for support with major universities whose area studies centers are federally funded. Happily for Holy Cross, two years ago, dancer, actor and director Lynn Kremer, chair of the theatre department, composer Shirish Korde, chair of the music department, and Rev. John E. Brooks, S.J., president emeritus and professor in the humanities, wrote a major grant proposal to the Henry R. Luce Foundation to support a new Holy Cross professorship in the Indonesian arts, targeted for Balinese dance-drama and gamelan instruction. Holy Cross has an impressive track record here due to Kremer's and Korde's collaborations in creating such theatre pieces as RASA. The new Luce professorship was funded, making Holy Cross one of just 12 liberal arts colleges to receive these new Asian Studies positions. "Receiving this grant is quite a feather in Holy Cross' cap," says Rodgers, herself the recipient of a 2000-2001 National Endowment for the Humanities faculty fellowship for research on Sumatran chanted epics in political context.

This fall, Holy Cross students unable to travel to Yogya on study abroad will be able to enjoy a taste of Indonesian culture in Worcester with the arrival of Ibu Desak, the first Luce artist-in-residence. A world-renowned dancer, singer and musician from Bali's premier arts conservatory (STSI), Desak will spend the next four years on campus teaching Balinese music, theatre and dance. "She is one of the very few female gamelan directors in the world," notes Rodgers. This situation makes Holy Cross' burgeoning gamelan program unique among others at such schools as MIT and Swarthmore.

The Holy Cross community first heard the elusive sound of the Balinese gamelan in the early 1990s, when Kremer and Korde brought this classical Southeast Asian art form to campus. In 1996, Holy Cross hosted Fulbright artist-in-residence Pak Cerita as gamelan instructor and master dancer. His performances reached a wide audience, including the Worcester city schools.

"At that time we borrowed a gamelan," recalls Ainlay. Enthusiastic response to the instrument prompted Holy Cross officials to commission one. "Finally we had our own gamelan custom-made in Bali," he says, in a village the travel group had visited last January. The typical gamelan is a ceremonial, deeply spiritual instrument made up of multiple gongs, bronze kettles, xylophones, drums, cymbals and flutes. Sounds interweave their tones to produce a percussive melody, for human and "spirit audiences." Ainlay reports that "each gamelan ensemble is given a name-in this case, Gita Sari, or 'essence of song'-and undergoes a blessing ceremony before it is used. . It is truly a work of art."  The instrument is housed in the Brooks Concert Hall.

Ainlay points out that such cultural exchanges must not create a brain drain for Indonesia, which needs to have its own highly trained college instructors continue to teach in their own country. Explaining that the Luce professorship is a visiting appointment for a series of Balinese artists over the coming years, he says, "We want the foreign faculty to infuse the campus with its presence." He hopes that eventually a reciprocal teaching exchange program may be established, giving Holy Cross faculty the opportunity to go to Indonesia.

This fall also heralds the implementation of the International Jesuit Scholars Program at Holy Cross. Javanese and Indonesian Jesuit Rev. Justin Sudarminta, S.J., will arrive on campus in mid-August to prepare for a full semester of teaching and research. Fr. Sudarminta earned his Ph.D. in philosophy at Fordham University in New York. The director of the theological college in Jakarta that trains Indonesian Jesuits, he specializes in environmental ethics and Christian-Muslim relations. 

The International Jesuit Scholars Program was established by Ainlay and Fr. Kuzniewski as a way to encourage to a greater extent an international dimension to Holy Cross' Jesuit presence. While in Yogyakarta, the Holy Cross group met with the Jesuit Provincial of the region, Rev. Paul Priyotamtama, S.J., to discuss future exchanges. Fr. Kuzniewski anticipates "a fruitful sabbatical experience here" for the Javanese Jesuit and future visiting scholars. While in Indonesia, "Romo K," as Fr. Kuzniewski was often called, spoke with Fr. Sudarminta about his upcoming visit. 

James E. Hogan, director of library services, did not travel to Indonesia with his colleagues, but enthusiastically endorses the creation of a Library of Congress site focused on the collection of Southeast Asian materials at the College. Typically, this honor has been reserved for research universities-those  that rely on the Library of Congress' Jakarta Southeast Asia field office to identify newly published books on such topics as Balinese art or changes in the Javanese economy. Two years ago, Holy Cross officials gave William Tuchrello, director of the Jakarta field office, a whirlwind tour of Holy Cross, Clark University, WPI and the American Antiquarian Society. The strengths of the College's various Asian Studies programs along with its study abroad plans convinced Tuchrello to authorize Holy Cross as a pilot program to join the Library of Congress' collections service for Southeast Asia. Tuchrello and his Indonesian staff will scour the country for appropriate titles, keyed to Holy Cross' curricular needs. The College will pay for the materials, but the Library of Congress will provide indispensable help in locating these on-site publications. "We will be gaining invaluable intellectual assistance from the government," Hogan says. Such growth potential in Asia-related collections will assist in recruiting both new faculty members and high-caliber students. There are benefits already: This fall, Holy Cross will welcome Vietnam specialist and economic anthropologist Ann Marie Leshkowich to its anthropology program. The Library of Congress/Holy Cross partnership may open the door to collaborations with other undergraduate institutions across the country.

School officials at Holy Cross and Sanata Dharma have considered the safety issues associated with this impending partnership. "Indonesia stretches from California to Maine, as far as distance goes," Ainlay says. "What happens at one end does not necessarily affect the other one." He explains that when trouble erupted in parts of the country during the transition of power from President Soeharto, the sultan of Yogya-the city's spiritual leader-drove around in a car with a loudspeaker to reassure the people that they were safe and that violence would not come to Yogya. "We didn't feel in any danger there a year and a half after these events," Ainlay says. "The environment did not strike us as being volatile." 

Holy Cross will continue to monitor the political situation, however, and will not consider sending students until administrators feel it is quite safe. Rodgers notes that the election of President Wahid, a pro-democracy Muslim intellectual leader and long-term human rights advocate, is an extremely positive political development.

"Our connection with Sanata Dharma is quite far along and very healthy," Ainlay says. "Overall, it's amazing how much we accomplished on that trip. We hope to make Indonesia come alive on campus. We have an unparalleled opportunity to step outside our own world and gain a global perspective with a culturally advanced country."  Sanata Dharma itself, along with its Jesuit leaders and diverse Indonesian student body, stands to grow internationally as well in its association with Holy Cross and the College's liberal arts traditions. 

 

Phyllis Hanlon is a free-lance journalist from Charlton, Mass.

 

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