Why Sewanee should consider interdisciplinary Chinese studies after the proposed Business major

Dr. YanBing Tan’s class making posters for 2018 Chinese New Year celebration. Photo courtesy of sewanee.edu.

By Alicia Wikner
Executive Staff

With the removal of the University’s Japanese program this semester, the students currently pursuing a major in Asian Studies have come to a point of difficulty; to fulfill the requirements, a student must “[complete] one or more courses in an Asian language at or above the 300-level,” or an abroad program approved by the Department Chair, according to the department’s website.

It seems the only available language to take that would qualify is Chinese, which currently has a total of 22 students, one of whom is me. While I more than understand the budget deficit that the University is dealing with, it seems that instead of focusing on the development of current programs, the University is choosing to undertake new projects such as the rumored Business major.

Why not combine the existing Business minor and the non-existent Chinese minor? This is an opportunity for both departments to pursue an interdisciplinary course in the wake of the proposed Business major.

For Sewanee, a liberal arts university known for its English department and writing programs (such as Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference), it appears that in an attempt to diversify its curriculum, the University is sacrificing programs, running in favor of gambling at attracting business students for whom there is already an available business minor to pursue.

Chinese is, in fact, the only language, along with Arabic, that is not offered as a minor, nor as a major, and has a history of changing, untenured professors, giving the department little room to grow.

As an option, I’d like for the school to consider, if they wish to pursue the Business major further, remodeling the currently available business minor into a “Chinese business” minor, which would require further language studies in Mandarin Chinese as well as an understanding of general Chinese politics.

This would offer Chinese language students an opportunity to show their language skills on their diploma as well as provide an alternative route for Business students to take in their pursuit of international business.

I’m aware this might seem like a stretch, but the majority of the present 200-level Mandarin Chinese students have pushed for a minor in the subject for the better part of a year, and while the school is cooperative, the funding for such a program simply doesn’t appear to be available.

Interdisciplinary studies could be an alternative solution to a problem most students are unaware exists, since the majority of the student population choose to study a Western language for their foreign language requirement.

It’s disheartening to be a part of a department with little resources available, despite the great efforts put forth by the current sole Chinese language professor as well as the students wishing to develop their Mandarin skills further. At the moment, only one semester of 200 and 300 level Chinese respectively are taught due to there being only one professor, and that seems unlikely to change. Combining Chinese and business could be a good way to combat these difficulties.