Call for applications to the 2021 Insights Through Asia Challenge open now

January 28, 2021
Munk School Staff

From exploring the complexities of humanitarian aid in Myanmar, to examining the threads between Bollywood and politics, the Richard Charles Lee Insights Through Asia Challenge (ITAC) supports students from across the University of Toronto to gain insights into critical issues at stake in Asia.

Housed at the Munk School’s Asian Institute, ITAC is a funded, interdisciplinary student traineeship that enables students to undertake their own impactful original, research. Past projects include a study on the effects of social exclusion on rural-urban migrants in Shenzen, and the art of wearing kimono as a source of cultural knowledge, identity and power among Japanese-Canadian women. Jillian Sprenger (BSc’19), a past ITAC student researcher, travelled to Sri Lanka to create a documentary on climate migrants. With the help of a translator, Sprenger was able to interview subject matter experts as she worked on her film. She says that being able to hear their stories was the highlight of her ITAC experience.

“When you’re doing research, very rarely do you have the opportunity to interact with the people who are directly affected by the issue you’re researching.” The insights her interviewees offered gave her work more depth and significance, says Sprenger.

Open to students from all disciplines at all three U of T campuses, ITAC prepares students to become effective researchers, with workshops that walk them through research methods and ethics. In addition to one-on-one sessions with an academic mentor, students participate in an interdisciplinary peer network that offers monthly feedback on projects in progress. There is a public showcase at the end of the program to highlight their research contributions.

This opportunity is invaluable for students.


Due to ongoing pandemic restrictions, this year’s iteration of ITAC has been redesigned to accommodate a remote learning environment. But Shannon Garden-Smith, research coordinator at the Asian Institute, remarks on the ongoing quality and creativity of student research. “During my time working with this program, students have conducted a range of outstanding projects,” says Garden-Smith. “ITAC work continues to serve as a launchpad for transformative scholarly and professional pursuits. This opportunity is invaluable for students.”

Applications for this year’s Richard Charles Lee Insights Through Asia Challenge are open until February 1, 2021.  Learn more and apply.