The Master of Arts in East Asian Studies is an interdisciplinary degree designed for
those who wish to pursue careers in such fields as international banking, business,
diplomacy, journalism, law, or secondary education, as well as for those who plan to
seek admission to a Ph.D. program in a specific discipline but who lack the necessary
background in language or area studies.
The M.A. candidate must demonstrate proficiency in Japanese, Chinese, or Korean, be
registered for at least two semesters at Cornell as a full-time student, and complete
the Masters of Arts thesis as described below. An individualized course of study is
designed by the student in consultation with a Special Committee, selected by the
student and composed of two members of the Graduate Faculty, one of whom (the Special
Committee Chair) must be a member of the core faculty in Asian Studies.
Requirements for the Master of Arts in East Asian Studies
A minimum of two semesters in residence at Cornell is required. Entering students who
do not demonstrate language proficiency as defined below may require up to four
semesters to complete the requirements. All master's candidates must finish their
degrees within four years from their first registration in Cornell's Graduate School.
(What counts is total elapsed time, not just time in residence.)
Candidates for the M.A. degree must demonstrate a minimum of proficiency in an East
Asian Language. This generally represents the equivalent of three years of non-intensive
language study (both oral and written). Alternatively, students may satisfy the language
proficiency requirement by achieving a satisfactory
score on the appropriate language test. (Selection of appropriate tests and passing scores
are now under consideration; fees for these tests, if any, will be the student's
responsibility.) The level of proficiency of students who have studied their chosen
East Asian language before entry into the field will be determined by examination before
placement. Students with little language background (one or two years) should consider
starting their language training in June of the year in which they plan to enter the M.A.
In addition to satisfying the language requirement, the candidate for the M.A. must complete
two semesters of full-time residence at Cornell. This usually means completing eight
one-semester courses and a bibliography course. The minimal acceptable grade for course work
is B-; these courses may not be taken S/U. Because the M.A. program is designed to provide
balanced, interdisciplinary training, students should have at least two disciplines represented
in their course of study. The student is guided in setting up a program by a Special Committee
composed of two faculty members selected by the student. These are normally the professors for
whom the M.A. research papers are written (see M.A. Thesis section below); the Chair of the
Special Committee must be a member of the Asian Studies Field core faculty, while minor member(s)
may be any permanent Cornell faculty member at the rank of assistant professor or above.
Course work normally will conform to the guidelines spelled out below. however, if the candidate
and faculty committee find valid reasons for establishing a variant course of study, they may
petition the Director of Graduate Studies to do so.
Typical Course of Study
Regular course option
1st year: Summer language work if necessary. Second-year Chinese/Japanese/Korean plus Asian Studies
courses during year.
2nd year: Third year Chinese/Japanese/Korean plus area studies courses.
Students entering with at least two years of language training (test required)
1st year: Third-year Chinese/Japanese/Korean plus area studies courses.
3rd sem.: Area studies courses plus advanced language if desired.
Students with language proficiency beyond the 3rd year (test required)
Such students may, with concentrated effort, find it possible to complete the M.A. program
in one year. Courses must be carefully chosen so that one M.A. research paper is completed
In addition to the language and bibliography course requirements, a student must normally
complete eight one-semester courses, achieving a B- grade or better. At least four courses
should be "core courses," while the rest may be either core courses or electives, as
A minimum of four courses (15 credits) should be Asian Studies or disciplinary courses
(number 3000 or above; 2293 or above in the case of History Department courses) taught by
faculty in the East Asia area and dealing primarily with the cultures of East Asia.
After fulfilling the language proficiency and core coursework requirements, students will
have space left in their schedules for additional study. In order that students achieve
both breadth of language skills and disciplinary diversity, we recommend that two or more
courses be selected from each of the following groups, to serve as electives:
Advanced language courses in the student's primary East Asian language or beginning courses
in a second East Asian language.
Disciplinary courses in the student's primary field of interest which do not deal primarily
with East Asia (i.e., international affairs, comparative literature, etc.) These must be
courses in which graduate students normally enroll (usually 3000-level courses and above),
and they should be approved by the student's Special Committee Chair.
The Master of Arts Thesis, which must be submitted by all candidates for the degree,
normally consists of two 15- to 25- page research papers that have been written in two
of the courses the candidate has taken during his or her period of residence. The two
papers (each of which must have a bibliography) will be bound together (they may be edited
into one integrated essay in the course of writing, but this is not required) and
presented in the form prescribed by the Graduate School for the M.A. Thesis. Graduate
School deadlines for May, August, and January degrees must be met.
Upon completion of all other requirements, the candidate is responsible for scheduling
an oral examination through the Graduate School in consultation with the members of his
or her Special Committee. This committee consists of two faculty members, normally the
instructors in the courses for which the research papers were written. They will conduct
an informal review and discussion of the papers submitted by the candidate and may
require some revision before final acceptance.
Unfortunately, financial aid resources for M.A. students are at present extremely limited.
One or two truly exceptional incoming students each year are nominated for a Sage Fellowship,
but only one student in the last several years has been successful in these university-wide
competitions. (And foreign students who typically receive low GRE scores do not fare well
in these competitions.)
The Graduate School has strict rules prohibiting incoming graduate students from serving as
teaching assistants, and the Field of Asian Studies has no teaching or research assistant
positions to apportion to new students. Also, because of the very size-able population of
gifted Asian scholars around Ithaca, it is unreasonable to expect teaching positions in the
Department of Asian Studies for the instruction of Asian languages.
The result, unfortunately, is that students must be fully self-funded. To make matters worse,
the Graduate School requires that foreign students fully document their financial resources
prior to admission.