Generous donation by Julia Gouw bolsters UCLA Indonesian Studies Program

Sidokarto, Special Region of Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia. (Photo: Jose Javier Martin Espartosa on Flickr, 2010; cropped.) CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

In addition to supporting lectures and conferences on Indonesia, the gift will underwrite research travel grants for UCLA undergraduate and graduate students.

“I am thrilled to be able to support education and research of the highest quality on my homeland.” Julia Gouw

UCLA International Institute, February 19, 2016 — Julia S. Gouw, a friend of UCLA who was the featured speaker at the UCLA International Institute’s 2015 commencement ceremony, has made a generous gift of $100,000 to the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS). The gift will support the Center’s Indonesian Studies Program.

A Muslim-majority country that is one of the largest democracies in the world, Indonesia has a population of 254.4 million (2014) and a rapidly developing economy. It has increased per capita income almost sevenfold over the past 14 years, from US$ 560 in 2000 to US$ 3,640 in 2014, and has cut its poverty rate in half since 1999.* It is widely expected to become one of the 20 biggest economies in the world over the next two decades.

“The UCLA International Institute and CSEAS are deeply grateful for Ms. Gouw’s generosity, which will sustain education and research at UCLA on this vital democracy,” said Cindy Fan, UCLA vice provost of international studies and global engagement.

CSEAS Director and historian George Dutton remarked, “The Center for Southeast Asian Studies is fortunate to have found a donor as enthusiastic about the study of Indonesia as we are. Julia Gouw’s gift is enabling our Indonesian Studies Program to continue to grow and thrive at a time when Indonesia is becoming an ever more important, yet still understudied, nation.”

From banker to philanthropist

A native of Indonesia, Gouw served as president and chief operating officer (COO) of East West Bancorp — among the 30 largest publicly traded banks in the nation — from 2009 through 2016. Its chief asset, East West Bank, is one of the largest independent banks headquartered in California and serves as a financial bridge between the United States and China.

Gouw moved to the United States in 1978 and earned a degree in accounting at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne. After becoming a certified public accountant and working at KPMG as a senior audit manager, she joined East West Bank in 1989 as its controller. Thereafter, she quickly rose through the ranks to become executive vice president and chief financial officer and, ultimately, president and COO. Under her leadership, the bank achieved 11 consecutive years of record earnings — a stellar track record widely recognized throughout the U.S. banking and investment communities.

Ranked five times by American Banker magazine as one of the “25 Most Powerful Women in Banking,” Gouw has also twice received the Los Angeles Business Journal’s “Women Making a Difference” award. Among other honors, she has been named one of “L.A.’s Top Women in Finance” by the Los Angeles Business Journal and Philanthropist of the Year by the National Association of Women Business Owners in Los Angeles.

In her 2015 commencement speech at the UCLA International Institute, Gouw said she struggled to define her identity as she built a professional career in the United States. Eventually, she chose to see herself as a global citizen and encouraged UCLA graduates to see themselves the same way. “Capitalize on your strengths and work to bring the world together. The future success of businesses and organizations in the next century will be those who can bridge the gap between cultures,” she said.

She also urged UCLA graduates starting out in their careers to set high and achievable goals and to identify and learn from experts. “Don't be afraid to fail. When you meet a challenge along the way, analyze and adjust,” she remarked, citing Winston Churchill’s maxim that “Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”

Gouw is planning on devoting the next chapter of her professional life to philanthropy. “I am thrilled to be able to support education and research of the highest quality on my homeland. How Indonesia manages its impressive growth and resolves its developmental challenges while retaining its vibrant democracy will offer lessons to countries throughout Asia and the world,” she said.

A longstanding friend of UCLA, Gouw established an Endowed Chair for Mood Disorders Research at the UCLA Health System, where she also serves on the Board of Overseers. In addition, she is the founding chair of the Executive Women’s Advisory Board for the Iris Cantor-UCLA Women’s Health Center.

In addition to women’s health, Gouw supports women’s advancement as a board member of The Trusteeship, an affiliate organization of the International Women’s Forum. She is currently a member of the Board of Directors of Pacific Mutual Holding Company and PacificLife Corp, and was appointed to serve on the District Export Council by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

Indonesian Studies at UCLA

The Indonesian Studies Program was founded in 2008 with a substantial gift from anthropologist and filmmaker Robert Lemelson, who is on the faculty of the UCLA department of anthropology. A series of subsequent generous gifts by Professor Lemelson through 2015 helped broaden and strengthen the program, funding graduate research and study fellowships, support for conferences and workshops, funding for visiting scholars, and support for the Advanced Indonesian Abroad Program. In particular, the Lemelson Fellowship Program enabled several cohorts of UCLA graduate students in diverse disciplines to conduct doctoral research on Indonesian society, culture, history and the country's environment.

UCLA also has a significant number of faculty who, like Professor Lemelson, focus on Indonesia or whose research has included Indonesia. This roster includes Paul Barber (ecology and evolutionary biology), Robert L. Brown (art history), Dr. Roger Detels (epidemiology, Fielding School of Public Health), Daniel Fessler (anthropology), Douglas Hollan (anthropology), Helga Leitner (geography), Geoffrey Robinson (history), Michael L. Ross (political science), Eric Sheppard (geography), I Nyoman Wenten (ethnomusicology) and Juliana Wijaya (Asian languages and cultures).

In conjunction with CSEAS and UCLA’s humanities and social science divisions, the Indonesian Studies Program sponsors lectures on recent scholarly research on Indonesia, organizes film screenings, arranges visits by prominent international figures, and hosts cultural events. Ms. Gouw’s gift will be utilized to sustain the program in multiple ways, from funding innovative conferences to supporting travel grants to continuing the public lecture series.

In spring quarter 2016, for example, CSEAS will host a symposium on the Indonesia diaspora organized by Juliana Wijaya (see above). Since 2013, Wijaya has administered the Advanced Indonesian Abroad Program at UCLA, an intensive summer immersion language course in Salatiga, Central Java, funded by the U.S. Department of Education Fulbright-Hays Program. The study program helps U.S. students acquire advanced language proficiency in Indonesian — a prerequisite for professional research on the country. In fall 2016, the Center will host an international conference on “Land, Livelihoods and Displacement in Indonesia.” Organized by professors Eric Sheppard and Helga Leitner of UCLA’s department of geography, it is hoped that the conference proceedings will result in an edited volume on this important topic.

Meanwhile, CSEAS is currently evaluating applications from both undergraduate and graduate UCLA students for travel grants funded by Gouw’s recent gift. The travel fellowships will enable the students to conduct research in Indonesia this summer, with awards to be announced in June. And the Indonesian Lecture Series continues apace, with upcoming lectures by James Rush of Arizona State University (“Hamka’s Voice in Indonesia’s Formation,” February 24), Rachel Silvey of the University of Toronto (March 3), author-journalist Margaret Scott (May 4), John Sidel of the London School of Economics (mid-May) and Kathleen Adams of Loyola University Chicago (June 1).

As this array of activities attests, the Indonesian Studies Program at UCLA continues to make the most recent scholarship on Indonesia available to UCLA students, as well as to send UCLA students to study and conduct research in Indonesia itself. CSEAS is deeply grateful for Ms. Gouw’s support of the program and looks forward to seeing her at some of its upcoming events.

*Source: World Bank, Indonesia Overview, accessed February 11, 2016.

Published: Friday, February 19, 2016