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CLAS to introduce Chinese as a major

By Joseph Kirschner
On November 5, 2012

  • The department of literatures, cultures and languages at UConn, housed in the above-pictured Oak Hall, hope to implement Chinese as a major for the spring of 2014. University officials have begun hiring Chinese language professors with the hopes of creating a major for the language. MAX ALIAPOULIOS/The Daily Campus

The University of Connecticut is in the beginning stages of offering its students a Chinese major, with the program expected to be ready by the spring of 2014.
"We hope that as soon as spring 2014, students can register as Chinese majors," said Rosa Helena Chinchilla, the head of the department of literatures, cultures and languages at UConn.
It may not seem like UConn needs to implement another major, given their already intense and rigorous research-one-university reputation.
"We are doing this because there is great student interest in the language and because China has such a rich and beautiful cultural history and great economic significance in today's world," said Jeremy Teitelbaum, the dean of the college of liberal arts and sciences and professor of mathematics.
"The reason why we're offering it is because as we globalize, we want to have a focus on Asia," said Katrina Higgins, the assistant dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
For now students interested in Chinese can take some of the minimal courses offered by the university in Chinese culture and language.
"We are in the first step, hiring the new faculty and soon to enter the next phase," said Chinchilla.
The application deadline for the open faculty positions is coming to a close on November 15th. Next semester, between six and nine candidates will come to be interviewed for the open positions and the contracts will be awarded in March.
"New faculty will start next fall," said Chinchilla.
"We are poised right now to hire three people in Chinese. Two full time positions and one assistant professor in residence position. We are in a planning phase of a possible Chinese major, which will be made real with the new hires," she said.
The challenging part about making a major is not just hiring the faculty but rather making sure the major will stand up to UConn's standards. Creating a major comprises of making sure there is no overlap with other departments or duplicate programs where we need to compete for students, Chinchilla and Katrina Higgins, the assistant dean of the college of liberal arts and sciences, said in two separate interviews.
"The faculty determines the curriculum at UConn," said Higgins.
"Before courses can become a major, they must be approved by the college committees, by the Dean's Council, by the board of trustees and the Connecticut Board of Higher Education. This will take at least six months after hires are made," Chinchilla said.
Despite not having an official major, UConn's department of literatures cultures and languages have been advising students to take classes even though the program is still in committee.
"We are advising students to take certain courses that will probably fit the major, but until all the course offerings are approved by College of Liberal Arts and Sciences committees, we really cannot speak of a major as of now. But we will once everything is approved," Chinchilla said.
The only way you could major in Chinese now is if you were to do an individualized major, Chinchilla said.
"Creating a new major requires a great deal of work by faculty committees, as well as approval by the UConn Board of Trustees and the State Board of Regents, so it takes several years. Therefore this plan will take a while before the major becomes available," Teitelbaum said.
Despite not having a Chinese major yet, the university has been hiring more faculty in different departments related to the Far East.
"We are hiring faculty this year in Chinese language and literature, and we do have the goal of creating a major in Chinese language and literature in the future," Teitelbaum said.
Mengni Yao, a 1st-semester undecided business major who is fluent in Mandarin, said, "I think it may improve the diversity and peoples knowledge of the culture."
The candidates for the open faculty positions for the Chinese major are coming to campus early next semester.
"Then we will hire two of them and one as an assistant professor in residence. At that time I will begin the college courses and curriculum committee process, then it goes to the other channels," Chinchilla said.
The major will be taught completely in Chinese except for the film courses because of the fact that the film minor is offered to students of all majors.
"A major is important to our department because it is a real commitment by the college to the faculty and we are able to attract top-ranked faculty who will be developing the program," Chinchilla said.
"It will also put our students on par with students throughout the U.S.," Chinchilla said.
"I have some interest in taking Chinese courses because I have had friends who have taken courses and they have told me it was a good experience," said James Huang, a 5th-semester electrical engineering major.
"It would help me improve my understanding of the language," Huang, who speaks Mandarin Chinese with his family, said.
"It would help UConn because it will show that UConn embraces different language and culture."
"With China becoming a rising power economically, it's important to understand its culture and language and economic history," said Emily Selzer, a 5th-semester international relations major.
Selzer is currently enrolled in Chinese 3210 with Professor Meng, one of the few faculties related to the current Chinese program. Her favorite part about the class is the fact that there are native speakers in class and how everyone helps each other learn. Selzer is fluent in English and German and proficient in French and Spanish.
"I thought Chinese would be the next one to conquer," she said.
The courses comprise learning the language elementary I and II, and intermediate I and II and traditional and modern Chinese culture.
A special topic course and an independent study course are also offered, however these classes vary by arranged credit hours as well as required consent from the instructor.

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