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Born in Seoul, South Korea, to a multi-generation educational missionary family, Dr. Elizabeth Underwood has long had an affinity for Asian people and culture.

Now, the Eastern Kentucky University faculty member has been selected as a participant in the 2016 National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute, “Confucian Asia: Traditions and Transformations,” to be held at the East-West Center in Honolulu June 13-July 15.

Underwood, coordinator of EKU’s sociology program and affiliated faculty with the University’s Asian Studies program, will explore Confucianism as an evolving system of thought and practice, including its impacts on social dynamics, the arts and politics. The multidisciplinary institute, according to the East-West Center, will “facilitate deep and context-rich engagement and primary texts, enabling participants to appreciate how common Confucian values were given different practical and institutional expression as they were carried from China to Korea, Japan and Vietnam, and as East Asia adopted and adapted the global ideals of modernization and industrialization.”

In her 16th year at EKU, Underwood said she hopes her participation will “provide insight necessary for my continued research into the Korean encounter with Christianity historically, while helping me to craft a mid-career reinvigoration of my research agenda more broadly, as I consider the changes to Korean society brought with immigration.

“My primary goal is to develop a course on Religion in Contemporary Korean Society,” she added. “I’m really excited about this opportunity to work toward incorporating more Asian material in my courses and eventually develop a course that serves both the sociology and Asian studies programs.”

Underwood will receive a stipend of $3,900 to help defray expenses for the Institute.

EKU’s Asian Studies program ( offers a minor (18 credits) and a certificate (12 credits). For more information, contact Dr. Minh Nguyen, director of Asian studies, at