This year is one of transition for the students and faculty of the former Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures. Most notably, the department has split into two new departments: Chinese language and literature, and East Asian studies.According to Chinese Professor and acting department Chair Jane Parish Yang, “We found a lot of students who were interested in language study, but not in the large, 15-course EALC program.”
In part, Parish Yang said, students were having difficulty double-majoring and participating in programs abroad under the previous major. Now, students can complete a 12-course major in either Chinese language and literature or East Asian studies.
Under the new East Asian studies major, only six terms of Chinese or five terms of Japanese are required in addition to culture courses that span across disciplines. The Chinese language department also offers minors in Chinese and Japanese.
According to Parish Yang, every 10 years academic departments at Lawrence undergo an external review. Outside faculty experts speak with students and the dean of the faculty, analyze departmental offerings, compare major and minor requirements to other colleges, and make suggestions.
In the case of the former EALC department, the reviewers found that the major had been too rigorous. Comparable schools, such as Grinnell and Macalester, only required about two years of language study for an Asian studies major, in addition to culture courses. In contrast, Lawrence’s EALC major required three years of language study.
While Parish Yang acknowledges that several years of study is important for language majors, it is not, she believes, necessary for a major in East Asian studies. “We had been setting the bar too high,” Parish Yang said, adding that the departmental split is “a fairer representation of what we do on Asia and East Asia than what was shown previously with the EALC department.”
In recent years, the former EALC department gained more exposure on campus through the four-year Freeman Foundation grant. While students are familiar with the yearly study trips to Asia that are offered to both students and faculty, the grant also allowed for another of the reviewers’ suggestions to be implemented – the addition of a Japanese language program.
While this year is the last for the famous Freeman trips, the Japanese department will likely be a more permanent fixture on campus. According to Parish Yang, one year after Lawrence received the Freeman grant, Professor Yamagata was hired by Lawrence to teach Japanese. Since she began teaching after the first year of the grant, Freeman monies will continue to fund her position for an additional year.
Furthermore, the 2003 faculty proposal notes that “we fully expect to offer a Japanese language major once a second tenure track position is in place.” It’s not yet clear, however, when that would be.