New Majors in Chinese and Japanese

By Lianna Brown ’22, Associate News Editor

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The East Asian studies department will expand to offer not only an East Asian studies major, but also a Chinese major and a Japanese major.

Shawn Bender, associate professor of East Asian studies and department chair explained that these new majors would give more flexibility than before to students who want to focus on the Japanese or Chinese language.

The Chinese and Japanese majors will be similar to the East Asian studies major, but the language requirements will be “much greater” than the East Asian studies major, according to Bender. The requirement for topics-related courses will be smaller, and each major will have capstone courses, said Bender. 

The new majors will still be categorized under the East Asian studies department.  “There will still only be one department but these three different majors within the department give students the ability to greater focus on a particular region and language,” said Alex Bates, associate professor of Japanese language and literature.

Critiques over the intensity of the East Asian studies major lead the department to consider changing their program. External evaluators reviewed the major and said it was “pretty intense,” according to Bender.  “We actually went and looked at other programs in East Asian studies and I couldn’t find any school that required more courses than we did,” Bender said “so it lead to some rethinking of how we should restructure the major.”

The addition of the new majors is not expected to put a strain on the department’s resources, according to Bender, “as long as they stay at the same level in the future.”

The goal of the new majors for the department is “trying to get us closer to the norm of what other programs demand” along with increasing flexibility and choices for students interested in studying languages or religions of East Asia, according to Bender. Currently, the department hopes to attract students majoring in other fields who want to major in one of the languages, according to Bates.

Students in the East Asian Studies department are excited about the change. Elizabeth Stewart ’19, who has a Chinese minor, said she is excited for the new major because “[Chinese] is extremely difficult to learn but so rewarding.” Stewart said Chinese courses were her favorite because “the teachers were incredible and taught such a hard language so well. Since it is turning into a major I hope more people decide to learn Chinese.”

There are currently five students who have declared the Chinese major and one student who has declared the Japanese major for the fall 2019 semester.

The decision to expand the department was made on Feb. 5 by the Dickinson faculty.