William & Mary will begin offering a Japanese studies major this fall, becoming the only public university in the state to offer a bachelor’s degree in the discipline.
The Bachelor of Arts in Japanese Studies was approved by the State Council in Higher Education for Virginia July 16. W&M’s Board of Visitors approved the program proposal on Sept. 28, 2018.
The Japanese Studies Program at W&M, which previously offered only a minor, is part of the Department of Modern Languages & Literatures.
According to the program description, students will learn about Japanese language, culture and history while also receiving training in cultural-studies methodologies. The major will include a study-abroad option, using existing exchange programs with Keio University and Akita International University and a new “send-only” program with Ritsumeikan University.
"We're excited to offer students a deeper engagement with Japanese culture, society, politics, and business, and to give them the cultural knowledge and linguistic skills to become experts on Japan,” said Michael Cronin, director of the Japanese Studies Program and associate professor of modern languages.
The major requires a minimum of 33 credits, including at least three courses taught in Japanese above the 202 (Intermediate) level. Up to nine credits may also be accepted from coursework taken at Japanese universities, with approval. All of the courses in the major are already established and have been offered previously at W&M except for the capstone course, which is new.
The Japanese Studies Program has grown significantly since 2001, with a fourth teaching position added in 2007 and 404 students enrolling in its courses during the 2017-2018 academic year. Students in the program’s courses were surveyed at the end of the spring 2019 semester and asked if they would declare a Japanese studies major or double major, if offered. Fifty-two percent said that they likely would or would have.
According to the program proposal, W&M anticipates 12 majors to graduate from the program annually beginning with the 2023-2024 academic year.
“The program was developed in response to student demand and the steady growth of the Japanese program at the university,” said Cronin. “Also, as part of a broad liberal arts curriculum, this new, interdisciplinary major will train students in the skills of critical thinking and communication that are fundamental to a liberal-arts education and highly valued by employers.”
Students who minored in the program or completed a self-designed major have already gone on to earn positions with notable companies in Japan or have pursued related graduate coursework at other universities.“We certainly appreciate SCHEV’s recognition of the value and promise of this program,” said Cronin.