Department of Asian Languages and Cultures

A Message from the Chair

rvnsimmonsRutgers President Richard McCormick noted in his annual address to the university community on September 16, 2011 that "a great state university has global reach and influence. Its research and academic programs have international impact, its faculty members collaborate with colleagues around the world, it attracts students from countries near and far, and its students have wide-ranging opportunities to learn other cultures and languages."

The Department of Asian Languages and Cultures plays a central role in these aspects of Rutgers' mission. Our faculty's global reach extends to China, Japan, Korea, and elsewhere, where our colleagues engage in academic dialogue and collaboration, and undertake a wide array of research in East Asian Studies. All of them are making exciting contributions at the forefronts of their fields. Back in New Jersey, our faculty brings its extensive expertise and knowledge to bear in a broad range of courses on the languages, literatures, and cultures of East Asia. Our department is thus able to provide the richest and most substantial offering of courses on East Asia in the state. Taking advantage of this rich curriculum, we have a large and diverse body of students from New Jersey as well as from many other parts of U.S. and the world, who select from our majors and minors to gain in-depth knowledge of one or more East Asian languages—Chinese, Japanese, or Korean—and to acquire penetrating knowledge of the literatures, cultures, traditions, and histories of the countries of East Asia.

Among the newest of our course offerings is the Global East Asia Signature Course, which explores the many ways in which China, Korea, and Japan have become major economic, political, and cultural players in an increasingly global 21st century. This course has become one of the most popular offerings in the Signature Course series, and is taken by students who intend to pursue majors or minors not only in the various Asian languages and area studies offered in our department, but also those of anthropology, business, economics, geography, history, journalism and media studies, political science, public policy, religion, sociology, and women's and gender studies. The popularity of this course clearly demonstrates that Rutgers students perceive East Asia increasingly to be a region of key importance to their futures, and thus a place they want to understand thoroughly and prepare to engage with.

Happily our department offers them many opportunities to do so, through our majors, minors, and wide variety of language and content course offerings. Students can also experience the cultures of East Asia and develop their language skills more directly through a number of study abroad offerings. Our department's newest and most exciting such offering is the Beijing Summer Chinese Language Program at Beijing Languages and Cultures University. In this faculty led program, our students can spend six weeks engaged in intensive immersion instruction in Chinese at China's premier institution for language learning in the heart of Beijing's university district.

We have also begun to develop a graduate program. Our first step was the establishment of a Masters for Teachers of Chinese (MAT) in 2008. This program became immediately popular among current and prospective teachers of Chinese. We now graduate between five and ten students per year in the program, most of whom go on to teaching in a variety of K-12 programs throughout the state. Our next step will be to broaden our graduate program with the development of a Masters Degree in East Asian Studies, for which planning is now underway. This program will appeal to students who are interested in a degree that includes rigorous training in East Asian languages together with graduate work on East Asian literatures and cultures. We hope to be able to accept our first students into this masters program in the Fall of 2013.

In addition to their teaching and programmatic activities, our department's faculty members are thoroughly engaged in academic dialogue and collaboration, for which examples are found in the many conferences, meetings, and workshops that they bring to Rutgers. A current and exciting development in this regard is the recent arrival of the Chinese Medieval Studies Workshop at Rutgers. For the past eight years, this workshop has been a major academic forum for the exchange of ideas and the advancement of scholarship in medieval Chinese literature, history, religion, and visual culture. The workshop's next annual meeting will be held at Rutgers in May 2012. Other conferences recently hosted by our department and faculty include: the annual meeting of the International Linguistic Association in April 2011, the annual conference of the Chinese Language Teachers Association of Greater New York in May 2011, the annual meeting of the Association of Japanese Literary Studies in November 2009, and the annual conference of the Mid Atlantic Region Association of Asian Studies, in Fall 2008. Among our plans for the future are a yearly series of workshops, speaker programs, and mini conferences in Chinese Studies to be sponsored by the department that will be inaugurated very soon.


Richard VanNess Simmons

Chair, Department of Asian Languages and Cultures