CSB and SJU approve new Asian Studies major

March 16, 2010

A new Asian Studies major at the College of Saint Benedict, St. Joseph, and Saint John's University, Collegeville, will help graduates pursue careers in Asia and make them more competitive in a job market which increasingly demands the ability to develop strong working relationships with Asian colleagues.

The Asian Studies major, approved by the CSB Board of Trustees and SJU Board of Regents on Feb. 26, is shaped by an 80-year legacy of Benedictine involvement in education, community-building and East-West dialogue in Asia.

"I am delighted that the Board of Trustees and Board of Regents endorsed the Asian Studies major," said Rita Knuesel, provost at CSB and SJU. "The new major reflects our long Benedictine history of engagement in Asia, affords our students an interdisciplinary field of study and responds to current and future student needs."

The new major also supports CSB and SJU's commitment to multiculturalism, intercultural competence and global citizenship.

"The new major will help prepare our students for the rapidly increasing number of career opportunities in every field of endeavor regarding Asia, which is now the center of the global economy," said P. Richard Bohr, professor of history and director of the Asian Studies Program at CSB and SJU.

In 1969, CSB and SJU became the first private colleges in Minnesota to offer an Asian Studies major on an individualized basis. The individualized Asian Studies major was a student-constructed major which fell under the auspices of the history department.

The new standardized Asian Studies major will be far more interdisciplinary, with students able to choose courses from many departments which offer Asian Studies components to fulfill their requirements. Currently, there are 40 Asian Studies courses, taught by 13 faculty members in 11 departments (exclusive of 18 study abroad courses in China and Japan).

Current students can choose between the new or individualized Asian Studies major. Students who enter CSB or SJU in fall semester 2010 may pursue only the new major. It is the 37th major to be offered by CSB and SJU, and the first major added since Gender and Women's Studies in the spring of 2007.

"This standardized major allows students more interdisciplinary options than the individualized major," Bohr said. "A stand-alone major is more attractive to prospective employers and thereby makes our graduates more competitive in the job market.

"Many employers are now requiring increasingly higher levels of Asian language and intercultural competence of graduates of American colleges," Bohr said. "In our 2003 program review survey, 83 percent of alumnae/i respondents said they would have pursued a standardized major, had it been offered."

The new major has a higher level of language requirement, which acknowledges the importance of foreign language to CSB and SJU students. CSB and SJU have offered minors in both Chinese and Japanese languages since 2008. In addition, the schools have offered an Asian Studies minor since 1994.