Duke may soon have its first master’s degree program based out of the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Department.

At its first meeting of the semester, Duke’s Academic Council heard a presentation by Carlos Rojas, professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, about the creation of a graduate degree program in Critical Asian Humanities. The council is expected to vote on the proposal at its March meeting. If approved, it will be the third new graduate degree program passed by the council this academic year.

“We are one of few departments within Trinity College that does not have a graduate program, and we’re one of few departments of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies among our peer institutions that does not have a graduate program,” Rojas said.

The proposed program is not a completely new concept for the department. AMES is already heavily involved in the master's of arts in East Asian Studies degree offered through Duke’s Asian/Pacific Studies Institute, with AMES faculty mentoring students in the degree’s critical humanities track. 

If approved, the new master’s degree will be a formalization of this “ad-hoc” program, Rojas explained. It’s three primary areas of focus will be global China, Japanese empire studies and Korean borderlands.

Rojas said there are certain aspects of the master's proposal that could be preferable to the current arrangement with APSI, explaining that AMES department has a strong concentration of experts in Asian studies compared to its peer institutions. He added that the move from APSI to AMES would give the department control over hiring and tuition for the program. He said that APSI has been supportive of the proposal.

The curriculum for the master’s degree would require students to take 10 courses, but students will have the chance to take some of those courses in other relevant fields as only five are mandated to be based out of the AMES department. The program is spread over three semesters of full-time study, with the understanding that some students will stay on for a fourth semester to wrap up their theses.

Rojas said the program plans to have eight students in each year’s cohorts, but AMES expects have about half that number for the program's inaugural year. The department has factored reserves into the program’s budget in case it does not meet their enrollment goals one year and The department is also trying to set aside money for a possible future Ph.D. program. 

Rojas noted the high rate of new master’s degree proposals in recent years. The AMES proposition follows the council’s approval of a Master’s in Dance and a multi-disciplinary materials sciences program between Trinity and Pratt already this academic year.

“I’m aware of the fact that this body has seen a lot of proposals for new graduate programs, new master’s programs, and there is some concern about proliferation of M.A. programs,” Rojas said.

In other business

The council also heard a presentation from Bruce Jentleson, professor of public policy and political science, about the Provost’s Tenure Standards Committee. Jentleson, a co-chair of the committee, said that it is seeking faculty input as they work towards turning a report into Provost Sally Kornbluth by the end of the semester. 

The committee was formed as part of the University’s new strategic plan. It formed last semester and is charged with reviewing Duke’s standards for tenure for scholars who specialize in non-traditional forms like online teaching and digital art. 

There was also an update about Duke Kunshan University by Kornbluth in executive session, which Council Chair Don Taylor said was related to the DKU update they received in November. This marks the second meeting in a row in which the council has received a private briefing related to DKU. 

Correction: This article was updated to reflect that the last public council briefing on DKU was not in Sept. 2017, since it was after the executive session at this meeting.