Published: Feb. 6, 2014

This spring CU-Boulder’s Center for Asian Studies is launching a new Asian Studies minor, open to all students on campus, with the goal of helping students understand Asia as a region beyond one particular nation.

Unlike the existing Asian Studies major, whose enrollment is also growing, the minor provides students with an opportunity to study Asia in some depth without doing coursework in an Asian language, according to Timothy Weston, a specialist on modern China in the Department of History, associate director of the Center for Asian Studies, and the faculty director of the interdisciplinary Asian Studies Program.

“We’ve come to recognize that there’s student demand for the study of Asia that doesn’t require foreign language study,” Weston said. “We believe it’s critically important to study Asian languages, and those are taught extremely well at CU, but we also recognize that quite a number of students want to learn about Asia without making it their sole focus of study. So, we see this as a good complement to other majors, such as geography, history, international affairs, business and others.”

To complete the minor, students must take introductory courses covering two out of three Asian sub-regions: East Asia, South Asia and West Asia. They also must take one course related to Asia in the social sciences, and another – drawing from a long list of offerings in a wide variety of departments – on modern Asia. Weston will assist students in designing their courses of study. 

One of the key goals in launching the minor, according to Weston, is encouraging a broader study of Asia on the CU-Boulder campus.

“When we’re talking about Asia, we’re talking about more than half of the world’s population, a part of the world that is extremely important economically, politically and militarily,” Weston said. “Asia is on a trajectory to become even more powerful and important in world politics and economics in the new century. The United States faces the Pacific Ocean just as it does the Atlantic. In the 21st century we must catch up to that fundamentally important fact.”

However, Weston thinks Asia is often misunderstood, or even worse, goes largely unstudied by most CU undergraduates, and hopes offering the new Asian Studies minor will draw more students to the study of Asia.   

“The Asian Studies program seeks to teach about the great diversity within Asia,” he said. “Our students really need to know about that part of the world for career opportunities in Asia in business, the diplomatic and intelligence realms, public health, academics, environmental- and human rights-focused NGO work and so forth. In addition, because Asia’s presence in the United States is increasing at a rapid rate, there’s growing demand in this country for people with significant knowledge about Asia.  In terms of career opportunities, the current generation of students would be wise to learn as much about Asia as possible.”

Image courtesy of Timothy Weston.