Undergraduate Student Learning Initiative (USLI) Goals

The mission of the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies is to enable students to learn about the cultures and civilizations of South and Southeast Asia. Our department teaches 12 languages and is an indispensable resource for programs in many other departments and areas.

For our undergraduate majors, we stress an interdisciplinary approach and expect our students to specialize in one of three areas—literature, religion, or cultural history. To this end, we have two tracks for majors—one that emphasizes the study of civilization and does not require language, and one that requires the students to do four semesters of language work in addition to more general studies.  Berkeley has an extraordinary number of experts in many areas of South and Southeast Asian Studies, and our students are encouraged to take advantage of relevant courses in such departments as History, Music, Political Science, Ethnic Studies, Art History, Linguistics, Gender and Women’s Studies and English.  Qualified undergraduates are also encouraged to participate in our graduate seminars.

Value and rationale for having stated goals and evaluation methods for our undergraduates

Having stated goals and the methods of evaluation for achieving those goals provides clarity on an otherwise murky process.  Because our major offers two tracks, it is important students are able to understand and evaluate both what is required of them and what they can expect to master within each track.  Students who are contemplating graduate school in the field of South and Southeast Area Studies will be clear about what track is more suited to them, while students who may want to go into the professions will also be guided as to the best track for them. 

A list of the goals

There are two tracks in the SSEAS major—one that emphasizes the study of civilization and does not require language, and one that requires the students to do four semesters of language work in addition to more general studies.  Within each track students specialize in an area (South or Southeast Asia)

Goals for the Language Track

Note: This track is recommended for students considering a graduate level study of South or Southeast Asia.

Within the language track, students can choose either the South Asian or Southeast Asian region.

  1. Students should have mastered the grammar (included complex grammatical features) of at least one South and Southeast Asian language (out of Sanskrit, Hindi, Tamil, Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali, Telugu for South Asia and Indonesian, Thai, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Khmer for Southeast). They should be able to read stories, newspapers, and the like in the modern language in which they specialize.
  2. They should be able to speak and get about using the language (if relevant), and to write simple prose in the modern language.
  3. For classic languages such as Sanskrit, students should have basic facility in reading a variety of different genres in the original, and for this should be comfortable using standard resource materials such as dictionaries, traditional grammars, on-line resources, etc. They are also expected to be able to engage critically with the pertinent secondary sources relevant to the texts being read.
  4. They should have a sound knowledge of one culture or area of South or Southeast Asia.
  5. They should have a broad general acquaintance with either South or Southeast Asia, including a good knowledge of cultural history, literature, and/or religion.

Goals for the Civilization Track

Within the Civilization track, students can choose either the South Asian or Southeast Asian region.

  1. Students should have a thorough understanding of the histories and culture of either South or Southeast Asia
  2. In lieu of acquiring detailed knowledge of one of the cultural/linguistic areas of South or Southeast Asia, they are expected to deepen their mastery of cultural history or religion of South or Southeast Asia.
  3. They should specialize in a particular national tradition and/or in a particular approach to the region (historical, literary, art, performative)

How goals relate to the core courses

Paths to the Goals

Foundation Courses

  • The South Asian 1 A and B sequence gives students an overview of the history and textual traditions of ancient and modern civilizations, and basic analytic and writing skills.
  • The Southeast Asian 10 A and B sequence are broad civilizational courses that give students a grounding in the religion, history, culture and literature of Southeast Asia.

Language Courses

  • Introductory courses
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced

Upper Division Courses

  •  The 100 level courses expand skills initiated in the foundational courses.
  • They give students more detailed knowledge about cultures, texts, religions, and politics of South and Southeast Asia.
  • These courses also foster research skills.

Optional Senior Thesis

Four paths divided by area and track

South Asia Language track

  • South Asian 1A, 1B or equivalent
  • 4 semesters of language work in Sanskrit, Hindi, Tamil, Urdu, Bengali, Telugu or Panjabi
  • 2 upper division courses in the department. 2 more upper division classes either from the department or from approved list.
  • Recommended but not required, one seminar (S,SEASN 190 or equivalent)

Southeast Asia Language track

  • Southeast Asian 10A, 10B or equivalent
  • 4 semesters of language work in Indonesian, Khmer, Thai, Tagalog or Vietnamese
  • 2 upper division courses in the department. 2 more upper division classes either from the department or from approved list.
  • Recommended but not required, one seminar (S,SEASN 190 or equivalent)

South Asia Civilizations

  • South Asian 1A, 1B or equivalent
  • 9 additional courses on South Asia:
    • 8 upper division, and 4 of these 8 should be taken in the department.
  • 2 courses within chosen area of interest (such as literature, art history or religion)
  • Recommended but not required, one seminar (S,SEASN 190 or equivalent)

Southeast Asia Civilizations

  • Southeast Asian 10A, 10B or equivalent
  • 9 additional courses on Southeast Asia:
    • 8 upper division, and 4 of these 8 should be taken in the department.
  • 2 courses within chosen area of interest (such as literature, art history or religion)
  • Recommended but not required, one seminar (S,SEASN 190 or equivalent)

How student learning will be evaluated in relation to these goals

The department closely monitors and evaluates attainment of our program goals throughout a student's progress through the major.

  • Language skills are assessed continuously through written and oral quizzes and exams.
  • Lecture courses require research and analytical papers and/or oral presentations, in addition to exams.
  • Larger lecture courses include discussion sections for group discussions.

As a capstone experience our department offers advanced undergraduate seminars taught by ladder-rank faculty that are research and writing intensive. We also encourage eligible students to undertake an honors thesis project and offer a departmental Chair's Book Prize presented at Commencement to the student who has completed the best honors thesis.