Undergraduate Study

Major in Asian Studies


A major in Asian Studies is rewarding for students of all backgrounds, as the global presence of Asia becomes ever more visible. This degree offers students career opportunities in law, business, government, journalism, arts, education, post-secondary education, and more.

Students are encouraged to apply to the major shortly after successfully receiving a minimum grade of B in at least two Asia content courses. These may include one language course, but writing seminars do not fulfill the requirement. The major must be declared no later than the second semester of the junior year. Admission to the major after the start of the seventh semester will be by petition only.

The majors can choose additional majors (double/triple major) in another discipline. Courses taken to complete another major also fulfill the normal requirement for elective units. Maximum of 15 transfer credits from courses taken outside of Cornell may be applied toward the major. Because the field is so vast, each major works  closely with a faculty advisor to design an academic program which meets individual interests, abilities, and career goals.

First-, second-, and third-year students may file an online Intent to Major form at any time.  (Students in their last year must petition.)  This initial step lets us know of your interest in the major.  We will add your name to the majors listserv so that we can let you know of Asian Studies-related news, opportunities, and events that may be of interest.

Learning Outcomes:

We expect our undergraduate majors to demonstrate:

  • The ability to conduct research on the cultural, religious, and/or literary traditions of a particular Asian region.
  • The breadth of knowledge to be able to discuss their research imaginatively within broader regional and global contexts and to contribute towards innovating the field of Asian Studies.
  • The capacity to critically analyze and contextualize linguistic and cultural norms, political structures, and texts as sites of resistance, oppression, and inequalities in the context of power relations within and beyond Asia.
  • Mastery of an Asian language at the second-year level or higher, including critical sensitivity to the target language's culture and society.
  • Written and verbal expression marked by clarity, coherence, intellectual force, and stylistic control.


Completion of the major requires 30 credits at the 2000 level and above with a minimum grade of B (S/U not accepted), including:

  • 1 course at the 3300 level.
  • 1 course at the 4400 level.
  • At least 1 course from two of the Asian Studies course categories (RL, SC, LL). See below.
  • A maximum of 6 credits of language study beyond those required for proficiency may be used.
  • Demonstration of 2-year proficiency in an Asian Language:
    • Testing into and completing the second semester of the 2nd year of that language
    • Obtaining a 2-year proficiency test result
    • Testing into a language course beyond the 2200 level.

To keep track of your progress, use the Major Degree Requirements worksheet.

Asian Course Categories

All Asian Studies courses including the Literature courses are divided up into different categories: (GE) General Education, (RL) Religion, (SC) Society and Culture, and (LL) Literature and Linguistics. 

Majors must take classes in at least two out the three categories beyond General Education.

Spring 2023

General Education (GE)

  • ASIAN 1193 "A Global History of Love" (also HIST 1930/FGSS 1940/LGBT 1940/SHUM 1930)
  • ASIAN 2218 "Introduction to Korea"
  • ASIAN 2231 "Introduction to China: Imagining China's Past" (also CAPS 2231)
  • ASIAN 2250 "Introduction to Asian Religions" (also RELST 2250)

Society and Culture (SC)​

  • ASIAN 2259 "Music in and of East Asia" (also MUSIC 2330)
  • ASIAN 2260 "Japanese Pop Culture" (also PMA 2460)
  • ASIAN 2285 "Introduction to Asian Arts: Material Worlds" (also ARTH 2805/VISST 2805)
  • ASIAN 2291 "Engendering China" (also HIST 2932/CAPS 2932/FGSS 2932)
  • ASIAN 3315 "Game Studies and Japan"
  • ASIAN 3332 "The Barbarians" (also ANTHR 3416)
  • ASIAN 3334 "Southeast Asian Politics" (also GOVT 3443)
  • ASIAN 3382 "Art of South Asia 1200-Present" (also ARTH 3611)
  • ASIAN 3396 "Transnational Local: Southeast Asian History from the 18th Century" (also HIST 3960)
  • ASIAN 4413 "Religion & Politics in Southeast Asia" (also ANTHR 4513)
  • ASIAN 4414 "Topics in South Asian Culture & Literature" (Topic: Poetry & Narrative, From Ghazal to Film)
  • ASIAN 4423 "The City: Asia" (also FGSS 4504/PMA 4501/COML 4423)
  • ASIAN 4426 "Narrating Choson Korea: History and Memory"
  • ASIAN 4435 "Making Sense of China: The Capstone Seminar" (also CAPS 4030/GOVT 4037)
  • ASIAN 4454 "The Rise of China and Change in World Politics" (also CAPS 4049)
  • ASIAN 4456 "Dancing the Stone: Body, Memory, and Architecture" (also ARTH 4858/MEDVL 4858/PMA 4358/VISST 4858)
  • ASIAN 4465 "Scandal, Corruption, and the Making of the British Empire in India" (also HIST 4723)
  • ASIAN 4473 "Modern Chinese Art" (also ARTH 4816/SHUM 4916)
  • ASIAN 4478 "China Imagined: The Historical and Global Origins of the Chinese Nation" (also CAPS 4772/HIST 4772)
  • ASIAN 4480 "Projects of Modernity in Asia" (also HIST 4408/RELST 4480)
  • ASIAN 4494 "Topics in Southeast Asia" (Topic: Movement and Memory: Explorations of Southeast Asian Hip Hop Culture)

Religion (RL)

  • ASIAN 3309 "Temple in the World: Buddhism in Contemporary South & Southeast Asia" (also RELST 3309)
  • ASIAN 3316 "Zen Buddhism: Ecology, Sustainability & Daily Life" (also RELST 3416)
  • ASIAN 3331 "Opt Out, Tune In: Hermits and Pilgrims" (also RELST 3331)
  • ASIAN 3386 "Islam and the Ethnographic Imagination" (also ANTHR 3680/NES 3880)
  • ASIAN 4449 "History, Theory, Methodology - Academic Study of Religion" (also RELST 4449

Literature and Linguistics (LL)

  • ASIAN 3329 "Literature of Leaving China" (also COML 3985/CAPS 3329)
  • ASIAN 3386 "Poetry of Classical India"
  • ASIAN 3378 "Korean American Literature" (also AAS 3378/COML 3378)
  • ASIAN 4412 "Japanese Linguistics" (also LING 4412/JAPAN 4412)
  • ASIAN 5505 "Methodology of Asian Language Learning & Teaching"

Honors Program

To be eligible for honors in Asian Studies, students must have an overall cumulative grade average of 3.0 and 3.7 in all Asian Studies area courses (not including language courses) and must successfully complete an honors thesis during their senior year. Students who wish to be considered for honors should apply to the Director of Undergraduate Studies during the second term of their junior year.

See the Honors page for more details and titles of past honors theses.

Minors in Asian Studies

The Asian Studies Department offers three areal minors.  Many students choose to highlight their Asian areal interests by combining a minor with their chosen major. For those interested in transregional studies, effective Fall 2021, we now offer a new minor in Global Asia Studies.  We also offer a minor in Sanskrit Studies. Students from any college or discipline are welcome to apply.

Click on the links below for detailed information/application process for each minor:

In addition to course work, there are many extracurricular activities related to Asia. These include: an annual Japanese film series; a Gamelan group; clubs in most of the martial arts of Asia and student societies for most of the Asian nations; arts exhibitions; visiting lecturers and performing groups; . and the visits of Asian scholars, diplomats, journalists and performers provide students with additional opportunities. We encourage majors and minors to become familiar with the activities of the East, South, and Southeast Asia Programs on campus.

A minor in Asian Studies is a rewarding add-on to any major and for students of all backgrounds, as the global presence of Asia becomes ever more visible.  First-, second-, and third-year students may file an online Intent to Minor form at any time. (Students in their last year must petition.) This initial step lets us know of your interest in one of the minors. We will add your name to the minors listserv so that we can let you know of Asian Studies-related news, opportunities, and events that may be of interest.

Study Abroad

There are many strong options for study abroad in Asia. Education Abroad, Office of Global Learning helps students plan a year or semester abroad as part of their Cornell undergraduate degree. Cornell has affiliations with several programs and institutions in Asia, and sends students to those and others. Cornell is affiliated with IUP, the Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Studies in Beijing (at Tsinghua University), and is a member of CIEE and IES, organizations sponsoring study abroad programs offering Chinese language instructions at several levels as well as courses in Chinese studies in the humanities and social sciences. Students may also study at other programs in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

Cornell is a member of the consortium of the Kyoto Center for Japanese Studies, an undergraduate semester or year program in Japanese language and Japanese studies. An agreement with International Christian University (ICU), outside Tokyo, permits Cornell students to attend that institution. Cornell students have attended CIEE and IES programs in Japan, as well as some other programs and institutions.

Cornell is a member of the American Association of Indian Studies, which offers fellowships for intensive study in India or Hindi, Bengali, and Tamil. There are study abroad options in universities or study abroad programs in various regions of India.

Students may spend a term or year in Mongolia, Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, or the Philippines, or choose to study about Asia at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, or the Faculty of Asian Studies at the Australian National University. Undergraduates should consult Education Abroad, Office of Global Learning (B50 Caldwell Hall); graduate students should inquire at the East Asia Program (140 Uris Hall), South Asia Program (170 Uris Hall), or Southeast Asia Program (180 Uris Hall) offices.

Study, Research, and Service Travel Grants

This travel grant award process is dependent upon potential changes in Cornell travel policies.

You can have the opportunity to spend part of winter break or a summer in an Asian country on an Asian Studies Study, Research, and Service Travel Grant that would provide funding for travel and living expenses.

Students receiving grants are responsible for managing all aspects of their trip including:

  • making their own travel itinerary
  • arranging travel and accommodations
  • managing their own budgets

At the end of the travel recipients must provide documentation of travel and submit a 10-page report summarizing the language and cultural experiences. 

Applicants may be from any college or major, but must have a proposed project that relates to their area of study. Priority will be given to students who have completed 2 years of language work in the relevant language prior to the intended travel; have no prior travel experience in the area of travel; and are Asian Studies majors or minors. Awardees must be enrolled at Cornell in the semester following travel. Applicants should have a strong cumulative GPA, a well-articulated project, and submit an appropriate budget. 

Applicants must complete an application form, and provide the following:

  • a 1500-word proposal about the plan of study or service or research (consisting of the title of the project, project summary, project detail, a detailed project timeline, and a detailed budget)
  • a transcript
  • a list of the current Academic Year Fall and Spring courses
  • two letters of academic recommendation, one from a language teacher (preferably of a language relevant to proposal)* 
  • letter of recommendation from host institution if you are doing a service project*

*All recommendation letters should be emailed directly to Erin Kotmel.

Application and other documents should be submitted to asianstudiesdus@cornell.edu.

Click here for Frequently Asked Questions about the Travel Grants.

For more information, contact Erin Kotmel, Undergraduate Coordinator, Department of Asian Studies, 350 Rockefeller Hall, e-mail elk38@cornell.edu.

Deadline: Summer 2023 deadline, March 31st.

Diversity Research Grants

What is it?

Beginning in Summer 2021, the Department of Asian Studies awards multiple Diversity Research Grants of $7500 for undergraduate students from under-represented and marginalized communities (see definition below), to conduct research on any topic relevant to Asian Studies (note: this is not a travel grant).  This grant is part of our Department's commitment to redressing the ways implicit bias and structural violence unevenly affect students' access, academic performance, disciplinary training, professionalization, and security.  It is also an expression of our aim to create an environment welcoming and fostering of a diverse student body.

What will I do?

Successful applicants will spend the Summer working on their Asia-focused research project, supported one-on-one by a faculty advisor of choice (applicants need to secure in principle availability to supervise your work before applying).  A condition for the grant is to dedicate at least 350 hours to the research project.

The project might be on a topic of choice (with approval from the advisor) or related to a pre-existing project initiated by the advisor.  Students will make use of resources available digitally and/or through the Cornell Library and its affiliates, to work on their research.  When your project is completed, you will share your thoughts either in the form of a paper, a presentation, or other format agreed upon with your advisor.  After completion of the grant, if you wish, your research grant faculty advisor could provide a letter of recommendation suitable for a job, internship, and graduate school applications.

Who can apply?

The Diversity Research Grant is aimed at fostering a diverse student body and creating research opportunities for students from under-represented and marginalized communities.  For the purpose of this grant, students are asked to indicate how they self-identify as belonging to an under-represented or marginalized community.  See below for a list of possible identities and/or experiences that would apply (the list is not exhaustive, and only indicative of the range of what might constitute "diversity").

  • First-generation college student (neither parent/guardian having completed a baccalaureate degree)
  • Member of an ethnic or racial group historically excluded from and underrepresented in academia - Black, Indigenous (American Indian/Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian or other Native Pacific Islander), Latinx, members of ethnic or religious minority groups in Asia (e.g. Chinese Muslims, Hindu Singaporeans...)
  • Other identities and/or experiences historically underrepresented and/or marginalized in academia including but not limited to the following:
    • Those who manage a disability
    • Being of a gender and/or sexual orientation identity historically underrepresented in your field of study
    • Those who identify as a military veteran
    • Holding DACA, TPS, refugee, or asylee status
    • Those who have experienced housing and/or food insecurity
    • Single parents

Students from all majors are invited to apply, but preference will be given to students majoring or minoring in Asian Studies.

Students currently enrolled in their First, Sophomore, or Junior year are eligible to apply.

How do I apply?

  • Identify a faculty advisor available to supervise your research project and secure their support
  • Write a research proposal (between 500-700 words)
  • Write a Diversity Statement illustrating how you self-identify as belonging to an under-represented or marginalized community
  • Submit to asianstudiesdus@cornell.edu as a single PDF file, including:
    • Application Form
    • Research Proposal
    • Diversity Statement
    • Unofficial Transcript
    • Short statement of support from the faculty member (an email stating willingness to supervise the project is sufficient)

When is the deadline?

March 31st

For inquiries, contact the Asian Studies' Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Undergraduate Prizes

The following prizes are offered by the department for undergraduate students.

Robert J. Smith Award/Russell Mann Gift

As a result of a gift from Russell Mann (BA-Asian Studies '90) in honor of Professor Robert J. Smith, an award is given to outstanding Japanese language students, from our beginning and intermediate streams of Japanese language instruction, as the most promising in their cohorts. 

Korean Language Program Award

As a result of funding from the Joh Foundation, three awards are given to Korean language students who have three years of hard work, dedication, and love of learning the Korean language.  

Irene M. Anderson Summer Travel Scholarships

As a result of a gift in honor of Irene M. Anderson, summer funding in awarded for travel to Northern China or Korea for special projects in Asian Studies.

Nakanishi Award for Japanese Language Studies

As a result of a gift in honor of Yasuko Nakanishi Whitman, Senior Lecturer in Japanese, an award is given to a student for summer travel for Japanese language study.

Robert Sukle Japanese Award

As a result of a gift by the ALLEX Foundation in honor of Robert J. Sukle, Senior Lecturer/Director, Japanese Language Program, an award is given to a Japanese language student after three years of hard work, dedication, and love of learning the Japanese language.

For additional questions, contact: asianstudiesdus@cornell.edu.

Director of Undergraduate Studies:
Associate Professor Chiara Formichi
331 Rockefeller Hall

Undergraduate Coordinator:
Erin Kotmel

350 Rockefeller Hall