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Saturday, September 30, 2023


New major gets approved

Students and professors are taking an active role in bridging cultural and linguistic differences through Chinese Studies, a newly approved major offered at UH, Department of Modern and Classical Languages faculty said.

Officially approved on July 31 by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the newly formed program has already enrolled approximately 500 students, making it one of the largest programs in the UH Department of Modern and Classical Languages.

"I was so happy when I heard the program was approved through the coordinating board," Director of Chinese Studies Xiaohong Sharon Wen said. "The first instinct (was) now I can tell my students, ‘Yes, you can declare your major because so many of them wanted it. Several delayed their graduation, waiting for (a) Chinese major."

UH is the only university in Texas that offers Chinese Studies as a major. Other universities such as the University of Texas or Rice University offer Asian studies with a focus on a particular country, such as China or Chinese languages.

"We are the only university with Chinese Studies," Wen said. "It’s very rare."

The program would not have been possible without support from students and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences John Antel, Wen said.

"With the… students being so demanding, (the) Chinese major was established," Wen said. "It was through the efforts of everybody and especially from students, so I’m very grateful to our students."

The curriculum encompasses culture and language while the courses that are offered include Chinese culture through language, history and film.

Chinese Studies also offers study abroad to students, for a five-week summer program in which students visit Beijing, attend classes and trips to different cultural destinations.

"The study abroad in China was at (students’) urging so that we would learn in an immersion setting," Wen said.

While classes are interesting and fun, the program is still rigorous, Wen said.

Chinese studies senior Melvva Becnel will be among the first to graduate and said that the classes are fast paced and difficult but that professors push student to learn.

"As a whole, the department deserves an A plus. My professors are always encouraging, they can (be) strict…but they always help," Becnel said. "They always give that consideration to the fact that I have only been studying it for a short time. They will give you every opportunity to succeed."

Media production senior Irene Kwan said that curiosity drew her to the program.

"I just looked up the list of foreign languages, and I was just very interested in Chinese since you don’t get to learn that just anywhere," she said.

Kwan said that she found the learning Chinese to be daunting, but found the challenge of a new language rewarding enough to consider pursuing a double major.

"It was really challenging, and I actually thought about quitting, but I stuck with it," she said. "I find it real rewarding. Right now, I’m majoring in communications, media production but since they started the new Chinese major, I’m going for that too."

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