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. The religions, histories, and literatures of South and Southeast Asia are crucial for understanding the region’s diverse cultures. Our major seeks to train students in these traditions by providing a strong grounding in the texts, languages, and cultures of South and Southeast Asian societies. In addition to a minimum of two years of language study, the major provides a humanities-based interdisciplinary training in both broader comparative studies of South and Southeast Asian cultures and a more focused concentration on a particular area of interest or geographical focus.

Berkeley has 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.

Goals of the South & Southeast Asian Studies Major

  1. Students should have a broad general acquaintance with South or Southeast Asia, including a more in-depth knowledge of the cultural history, literature, or religion of a particular culture or area of their choosing.
  2. They should be able to engage critically with contemporary scholarship on South and Southeast Asia, and their chosen field of specialization in particular.
  3. They 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, and Telugu for South Asia and Indonesian, Thai, Burmese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Khmer for Southeast). They should be able to read stories, newspapers, and the like in the modern language in which they specialize.
  4. They should be able to speak and get about using the language (if relevant), and to write simple prose in the modern language.
  5. For classical 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.

Paths to the Goals

Foundation Courses

  • South Asian 1 A and B give students an overview of the history and textual traditions of ancient and modern civilizations, and basic analytic and writing skills.
  • Southeast Asian 10 A and B 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

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.