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Asian Studies

Randolph students can craft an Asian Studies minor that will prepare them for the ever-increasing career opportunities available to those with a grasp of the languages, contemporary affairs, and rich traditions of Asia.

Professor Kun An teaches a Chinese language class.

Why Pursue Asian Studies at Randolph?

Randolph College offers a breadth of academic expertise, with particularly strong course offerings on the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and the Tibetan plateau, and the east Asian cultures of China, Japan, and Korea, as well as the Asian diaspora.  

With exposure to Asia’s monumental contributions to humankind in the areas of political organization, religion, art, philosophy, and technology, students can craft Asian Studies minors that will prepare them for careers in a variety of fields.

Degrees offered

Asian Studies interdisciplinary minor

Curriculum and Courses

Related Programs

Opportunities for Experience

Study Abroad

Spend a year or a semester studying, living, and learning abroad.  Broaden your perspective while gaining the skills you need to succeed in our global society.

Randolph College has affilate agreements with two institutions in Japan:

Students can choose our other affiliates in the United Kingdom or Spain, faculty-led Study Seminar trips, special programs through academic departments, or design their own experiences.

Learn more about Study Abroad.

Model UN Team

In recent years, our student delegations to the National Model United Nations (NMUN) conference in New York City have consistently been honored among the best.

Participation is selective and chosen delegates take a full credit class to prepare.

Delegates learn the structure, systems, and history of the UN with an emphasis on writing, research, speaking, and collaboration.

Intercultural Competence

All Randolph students learn global citizenship with the capability to accurately understand and adapt to cultural differences and find commonality.

Asian Studies majors must gain working knowledge of at least one Asian language and a broad understanding of the modern political history, economy, diplomacy, and societies of Asian countries—especially the two most prominent players in East Asia: China and Japan.

Summer Research Program

Spend the summer working closely with a professor on a focused aspect of an Asian Studies topic of your choosing.

Randolph’s intensive eight-week Summer Research Program enables students to work with professors on a research of their own design; live in a residence hall on campus, participate in on-campus summer events, attend special seminars with guest speakers; and share the progress and results of their research.

Learn more about the Summer Research Program.

Symposium of Artists and Scholars

Modeled after a traditional academic conference, the SAS brings together students of all disciplines to share the results and highlights of the best work being produced at the College –  oral presentations, readings of creative works, performances, exhibitions of student artwork, and poster presentations.

Learn more about the Symposium of Artists and Scholars.

Internships

Learn by doing – in the field and on the job.  The Career Development Center will help place you in positions with leading companies and organizations in your field of study.

Learn more about internship opportunities.

Unique Experiences

Outcomes

Historic Preservation Law

Janie Campbell ’12, history major
Preservation Consultant, law firm of Rogers Lewis Jackson Mann & Quinn, LLC, Columbia, South Carolina

Janie’s group works with developers seeking tax credits for rehabilitating historic properties.

“I work closely with project architects to ensure that historic, character defining elements of each building are preserved and restored, which can vary tremendously as what is significant to a 1929 airplane hangar is vastly different from what makes a 1963 mid-century modern motel unique!”

She writes National Register of Historic Places nominations and Historic Preservation Certification applications, which detail the property’s significance.  She also conducts site visits to ensure work is being completed as described and photographs the before, during, and after conditions of each project.

“Randolph certainly laid the foundation for my research and writing skills. The Summer Research Program, in particular, prepared me for the type of place-based research I do now. “

Opportunities

Top Ranked Professors

Randolph College’s faculty are consistently recognized as among the best in the nation. The Princeton Review ranked the College in the Top 20 for most accessible professors in the 2021 edition of its flagship college guide, The Best 387 Colleges.

Randolph has been ranked in the top 20 for most accessible professors for four consecutive years.

Asian Studies Faculty

Kun An

Associate Professor of Chinese Language

Read More... Kun An

Selda Altan

Assistant Professor of History

Read More... Selda Altan

Suzanne Bessenger

Associate Professor of Comparative Philosophy

Read More... Suzanne Bessenger

Mari Ishibashi

Associate Professor of Political Science

Read More... Mari Ishibashi

Only at Randolph

Randolph students can take advantage of unique programs which give them a more enriching education than can be found anywhere else.

Money for Your Research

The Randolph Innovative Student Experience (RISE) program provides every student a $2,000 grant to fund research, creative work, experiential learning or other scholarly pursuits.

Learn More
The Liberal Arts Advantage

Randolph graduates learn to think critically, solve problems and work well with others. They are prepared to succeed in all aspects of life.

Learn More
TAKE 2

Two courses per half-mester means you get to focus in and dig deep into your coursework while still having time for the rest of the college experience. Two classes. Seven weeks. Repeat.

Learn More
The Randolph Plan

Randolph students work with faculty mentors to explore a broad range of disciplines as they chart their academic path.

Learn More

Department News

Tibetan lamas to build sand mandala at Randolph College

After an opening ceremony at 10 a.m. Monday, Sept. 13, in the south wing of Lipscomb Library, they will work daily from 10 a.m. to noon and 3 to 5 p.m. on the mandala.

Read More

America’s wars in Asia, and U.S. public opinion about them, subject of summer research

Both the Korean and Vietnam Wars were milestones in the Cold War era, shaping U.S. public opinion toward both countries at the time—and we still have a lot to learn from them today.

Read More

History professor Selda Altan publishes work, presents at conference

History professor Selda Altan presented “A French Muslim in Qing China: Gervais Courtellemont’s Travels in Yunnan and Chinese Muslims in […]

Read More

Latesha Thornhill ’21 telling the stories of veterans through VA internship

Thornhill is working as a digital media engagement intern for the Department of Veteran Affairs, researching and fact checking the VA's external communications, including its Veterans of the Day blog posts.

Read More

Randolph Announces 2019-2020 Academic and Leadership Awards

Academic Awards Art and Art History Outstanding First Year: Aisha Downs Rachel Trexler Ellis ’44 Art Prize for Excellence in […]

Read More

Tibetan lamas to build sand mandala at Randolph College

After an opening ceremony at 10 a.m. Monday, Sept. 13, in the south wing of Lipscomb Library, they will work daily from 10 a.m. to noon and 3 to 5 p.m. on the mandala.

Read More

America’s wars in Asia, and U.S. public opinion about them, subject of summer research

Both the Korean and Vietnam Wars were milestones in the Cold War era, shaping U.S. public opinion toward both countries at the time—and we still have a lot to learn from them today.

Read More

History professor Selda Altan publishes work, presents at conference

History professor Selda Altan presented “A French Muslim in Qing China: Gervais Courtellemont’s Travels in Yunnan and Chinese Muslims in […]

Read More

Latesha Thornhill ’21 telling the stories of veterans through VA internship

Thornhill is working as a digital media engagement intern for the Department of Veteran Affairs, researching and fact checking the VA's external communications, including its Veterans of the Day blog posts.

Read More

Randolph Announces 2019-2020 Academic and Leadership Awards

Academic Awards Art and Art History Outstanding First Year: Aisha Downs Rachel Trexler Ellis ’44 Art Prize for Excellence in […]

Read More
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Kun An

Associate Professor of Chinese Language

Credentials:B.A., Beijing Normal University
M.A., University of Pittsburgh
Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh
Associated Departments:Chinese Studies, Asian Studies
Office:Leggett 605
Phone:(434) 947-8558
Email:kan@randolphcollege.edu

I came to Randolph College from Princeton University, where I taught for five years. At Randolph, in addition to teaching four levels of Chinese language, and several China-related courses (film, culture, and literature), I like to practice the Five Routines of Soaring Crane Qigong and explore new way of cooking healthy Chinese food. I strive to help my language students sample authentic Chinese food, especially “weird” dishes – my belief is that motivation for high proficiency language skills comes from cravings and talking about good food.

As a teacher-researcher, I strive to research what I teach and use insight from my research to improve teaching and curriculum. My contributions to the field of second language acquisition and pedagogy, since 2007, have been primarily in the areas of (a) discourse analysis in elementary grammar acquisition; (b) computer-assisted learning in elementary tonal acquisition; (c) computer-assisted learning in Mandarin character acquisition; and (d) issues of teaching Chinese in Liberal Arts Colleges.

My publications include: Anything Goes: An Advanced Chinese Reader “无所不谈”,Princeton University Press, 2006; Sample Tests of English for College Students of Science, Beijing University of Technology Press, 1992; and New Edition of Listening Comprehension, Beijing Science and Technology Publishing House, 1991. I am currently editing two articles: Grammar Development in Conversation: Revisiting Corrective Feedback within the Zone of Proximal Development and What Makes Learning Second Language Grammar Difficult? A Response to DeKeyser.

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Selda Altan

Assistant Professor of History

Credentials:B.A., Bogaziçi University
M.A., Bogaziçi University
Ph.D., New York University

Associated Departments:History, Asian Studies
Office:Smith 302
Phone:4349478522
Email:saltan@randolphcollege.edu

News Headlines

I am originally from Istanbul, Turkey. I received my undergraduate degree in history and sociology at Bogazici University, Istanbul. As an undergraduate, I attended two summer schools at Tianjin Normal University in China to improve my Chinese. For my master’s degree in history at Bogazici University, I studied at Nanjing University for one year on a Chinese government scholarship. I completed my research in China with an additional semester in Beijing Normal University. When I returned to Turkey, I worked as the assistant to the Chinese director of the Confucius Institute at Bogazici University. In 2010, I was admitted to the Ph.D. program in history at New York University. After three years of coursework in New York, I researched in Chinese and French archives. I received my doctorate in 2017 with a dissertation entitled, “Labor and the Politics of Life Along the Yunnan-Indochina Railway, 1898-1911.” Since then, I taught at Swarthmore College and the University of Florida.

I was impressed by Randolph’s commitment to teach Asian history while many liberal arts colleges focus on American and European studies. The global studies program and Chinese language classes convinced me that Randolph is a great institution to pursue my academic goals in training global citizens with sensibilities to the people beyond their borders. During my one-year work at Swarthmore College, I also enjoyed the close contact between students and professors. It was very different from my earlier experience at large research universities where students usually come to college with predetermined academic interests and goals. In a liberal arts college, on the other hand, professors have a larger role in feeding and shaping the curiosity of the students.

The most important component of my classes is participation. I want my students to engage with the material and turn our lectures and readings into usable and functional knowledge. My classes (not seminars) usually begin with a brief lecture on the daily topic and continue with an activity. This can be a close reading and discussion of a primary source (document, original text, video clip, or photo) or a hands-on activity, such as designing an issue of a historical periodical or a poster, solving a puzzle, and role playing activities. I enjoy my classes most when there is noise and movement in the classroom.
Having worked in many different cultural and institutional settings, I can say that student diversity at Randolph is extraordinary. While I am aware that it comes with many challenges in terms of our teaching methods and efficiency, the energy I felt at the convocation ceremony reflects the dynamism and potential of this unique student body. Their boldness is the guarantee of a great learning environment.

I spend my free time with my 4-year-old daughter and my husband. We have a real sweet tooth, so I bake at least three times a week. Shopping at the farmer’s market and cooking fresh vegetables is my favorite activity on Saturdays. Literature is my passion since childhood. Not to lose my Turkish writing ability, I write pieces on Asian literature, culture, and history in my personal blog called Asyatik. I also like puzzles, but I avoid them during the semester because I cannot stop once I start.

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Suzanne Bessenger

Associate Professor of Comparative Philosophy

Credentials:B.A., Mills College, Anthropology
M.A., University of Virginia, History of Religions, Tibetan Buddhism
Ph.D., University of Virginia, History of Religions, Tibetan Buddhism
Associated Departments:Comparative Philosophy, Asian Studies
Email:sbessenger@randolphcollege.edu

News Headlines

My first year of college I found myself in an introductory philosophy class called “Crucial Human Issues of Our Culture,” where I discovered, to my amazement, that the questions that had consumed me in my high school years — What is a good human life?  What is beauty?  Why do we suffer?  What does it mean to die well?– were questions that lay at the heart of the academic enterprise, and that philosophers had been asking for millenia.  My pursuit of answers to these questions eventually led me to the study of Asian religions and philosophies, the creation of a self-designed major in Asian Studies at Mills College in Oakland, California, and a college semester abroad experience studying Tibetan Buddhism in India, Nepal, and Tibet through the School for International Training.

After college I spent a year teaching science in a Bay Area public school, and then another year traveling through Buddhist pilgrimage sites in northern India and living at a Buddhist nunnery in the foothills of the Himalayas.  I eventually pursued a masters and doctorate in the History of Religions at the University of Virginia, where I focused on the study of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as South and East Asian religions and philosophies.  My research focuses on the 14th century Tibetan saint Sönam Peldren and her husband Rinchen Pel, some of which I have published in the book Echoes of Enlightenment: The Lives of Sönam Peldren (Oxford, 2016).  I am currently working on a complete translation of Sönam Peldren’s biography.

At Randolph College I enjoy introducing students to the distinctive traditions of thought found in Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, and Daoism, and to topical courses on subjects such as death and dying, gender, and visual culture.  Randolph students bring to the classroom the same questions and passions that started my own intellectual journey all those years ago, and it is a joy and privilege to work alongside them as they find their own paths forward to meaningful and abundant lives.

 

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Mari Ishibashi

Associate Professor of Political Science

Credentials:B.A., Sophia University (Japan)
M.A., University of Notre Dame
Ph.D., University of Notre Dame
Associated Departments:Political Science, Global Studies, Asian Studies
Office:Psychology 202
Phone:4349478499
Email:mishibashi@randolphcollege.edu

Originally from Japan, I first came to the United States as an exchange student and became a strong advocate of exchange programs. After completing my B.A. at Sophia University (Jouchi Daigaku) in Tokyo, I jumped into the field of policy research, working with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) members of the Japanese parliament. My desire to learn about domestic and global politics from a very different spectrum brought me to the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and later I earned my Ph.D. in political science at the University of Notre Dame.

What I hope for my students is to discover a life-long joy of developing a greater appreciation of and celebration for the differences and commonality of humankind. I would like them to understand the world by making connections among different pieces of knowledge they acquire in various disciplines. I would like my students to open their minds and hearts to different predicaments of other peoples and critically reflect on important issues which affect not only them but also others in the world.

My research interest has been on minority politics, especially the Korean minority in Japan. Most recently, I have been examining different factors behind decisions made by the local governments in Japan to allow foreign residents participation in referendums. My courses include Introduction to East Asian Politics, Gender Politics in Asia, Ethnic and Political Conflict in Asia, Introduction to World Politics, Peace and Conflict Resolution and Political Research.

When I am not on campus, I spend a lot of time with my husband, Carl and our sons, Elliott and Linus.

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