Southern California's only interdepartmental degree program devoted exclusively to Southeast Asian studies will be launched this fall through ISOP. The program will offer both a Bachelor of Arts degree and an undergraduate minor.
An influential crossroads of humanity
Michael Salman, associate professor of history and chair of the program, said that the establishment of the degree program reflects the growing recognition of the importance of this world region. "This geographical configuration, which encompasses Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei and East Timor, represents a vastly heterogeneous grouping of societies, ethnicities, languages, and cultures, and an influential crossroads of humanity," Salman said. "The establishment of the new interdepartmental degree program is indicative of UCLA's initiative to promote the study of Southeast Asia across the disciplines." (The same initiative was behind the establishment of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies in 1999.)
Salman added that the presence of a large Southeast Asian American population in Southern California has generated an unprecedented interest among the UCLA student body, a large number of whom see the region as part of their identity.
Older approaches to Southeast Asian studies have tended to emphasize the strength of traditions in the arts, music, and social relations. UCLA's interdepartmental degree program looks at the region in light of both local particularities and transregional relationships. By doing so, it will enable students to study critical issues that extend across many disciplines and to address major contemporary concerns in the humanities, social sciences, arts, business, policy, and international affairs.
An important element in the program is study abroad, and students are encouraged to study in Southeast Asia for at least one term. Currently, UC Education Abroad offers active programs in Singapore, Vietnam, as well as its recently established program in the Philippines, launched last spring by Barbara Gaerlan, assistant director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies. The program in Indonesia has been suspended indefinitely due to the political unrest in that country. Better news is on the horizon for the Thai program, which was suspended in 2000. Thanks to demonstrated student interest largely a result of the drive for Southeast Asian studies on campus, new permanent and visiting faculty, and the reestablishment of the Thai language program in 1999 the program in Thailand will be reinstated for 2003.
More information on the Southeast Asian studies IDP is at www.isop.ucla.edu/seasia/.