Faculty Approve New College of East Asian Studies

Wesleyan has a new college, the College of East Asian Studies (CEAS). This academic re-configuration combines the existing East Asian Studies Program, Asian Languages and Literatures Department, and Freeman Center for East Asian Studies into one College housed primarily in the beautiful, tranquil Freeman Center for East Asian Studies on the north end of campus. The new structure also pulls Korean into the College from Less Commonly Taught Languages. CEAS provides for an expanded major as well as an entirely new minor.

The College joins the growing ranks of interdisciplinary colleges at Wes: the College of Social Studies, the College of Letters, the College of the Environment, and the College of Film and the Moving Image. Like some of the other colleges, CEAS will support significant co-curricular programming and cohort-building among majors.

Professor Laurie Nussdorfer, the Chair of the Educational Policy Committee which brought the proposal to the faculty for approval this past Tuesday, wrote that CEAS “is  innovative as a new 3 year major requiring a more advanced level of language study than before, and it builds a student cohort both by new opportunities for social interaction among majors and by bringing in new student constituencies, like native speakers and others interested in East Asia who are committed to other majors, through a new minor. These are clear benefits of the new arrangement.”

Students, too, are quite interested in the new College. “This news was a bit of a gamechanger for me,” an anonymous member of the Class of 2015 chimed in. “A lot of people are excited about the announcement of the new college because it is being seen as a signal that the University intends to take this program that is already very strong and renowned, and investing in it further. It feels good that the program is getting this recognition.”

Professor Stephen Angle, the primary author of the proposal, discussed a few big benefits to the new College. “First, it will mean some exciting pedagogical innovations. For example, we have long been struggling to provide exciting, meaningful courses for students at advanced levels of Chinese and Japanese.” Under the new College, “there are going to be more language-based opportunities,” described Professor Mary-Alice Haddad, “including CEAS lectures about different topics that are delivered in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean rather than just in English, some experimental hybrid and lab courses in which ‘content’ courses (e.g., Confucian philosophy, Japanese politics, Japanese film) will have opportunities to engage with the subject matter in the language of the content.”

For proposal proponents, a second important benefit is the opportunity for fundraising. “For years we have relied on the generosity of the Freeman family to support many aspects of East Asian Studies on campus. Mansfield Freeman ’16 [Edit: that’s 1916, mind you] established the annual Freeman Lecture and the East Asian Center that bears his name; his son Houghton “Buck” Freeman ’43 carried on and developed this legacy in many ways. But with Buck Freeman’s passing, the attentions of the Freeman family have primarily turned elsewhere. So the idea of creating something that is partly new, initiating a new chapter of East Asian Studies here at Wesleyan, has the potential to lead to new opportunities down the road.”

The new College has been in the works for quite a while, and included a collaborative effort between many different faculty and departments. “The idea for a College of EAST Asian Studies (CEAS) first emerged a couple years ago,” wrote Professor Stephen Angle. “My colleagues in East Asian Studies and I had a whole series of conversations about what a ‘College’ would mean and how we could use the new structure to improve opportunities for our students.”

Looking forward to the future, I asked Professor Angle what his expectations were for the coming years. “My expectations are twofold,” he replied. “On the one hand, I think that students in the CEAS will come to define what U.S. college students interested in East Asia should be. I think that we will develop a spirit in the College among faculty and majors that rivals that of other Colleges on campus. On the other hand, we will simultaneously be very open to the rest of campus: through our new Minor, through the new ways in which students from East Asia are able to participate in many of our classes, and through the ways in which we offer programming that connects us to so many different departments, programs, and colleges across campus. In short, I want to have it all—a great sense of ‘college’ identity, and an openness that helps us network with and support students and faculty across the campus. I suppose there will be some bumps along this path, but I think I speak for all the CEAS faculty in saying that we are excited to try it out.”

Interested students will likely be able to sign up for the CEAS major (remember, it’s a three-year major) or minor in Spring 2014.

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