In an academic year unlike any other, five incoming EAS-MA students participated in an orientation unlike any in APSI's nearly 40-year history.
On August 13-14, Professors Simon Partner and Giovanni Zanalda joined the APSI staff in a virtual-yet-real welcome for the students from around the world.
Generally, some of the most complicated logistical elements of an orientation are making sure the classrooms and necessary spaces on campus are available. This time around, time zones were among the major considerations faced by staff and students alike, since four of the newly-matriculated students dialed in from their homes in China via Zoom. Another participated remotely from the greater Atlanta area, while a second-year student addressed her new classmates from her apartment in Durham.
This tight cohort of students brings an array of academic and professional backgrounds as well as curricular interests. Drawing on experiences in STEM, the music industry, and civic engagement, these talented individuals plan to explore topics such as the status of ethnic minorities, immigration, modern culture as portrayed in film, and questions of identity among migrant populations.
Most of the new EAS-MA students have native-level proficiency in the Chinese language, and several are keen to further develop proficiency in other languages of the region.
Through an online core course that brings in Duke faculty who are subject matter experts with deep knowledge of Asia, these young scholars plan to explore the tools and methods of humanities and social science disciplines in preparation for further studies.
Students will also begin evaluating whether to pursue a Master's thesis, a rigorous program of academic research that is a new option for the EAS-MA degree this year.
Four will also get to experience a translated campus life this fall, enrolling in a combination of live and online courses while living in dorms at Duke Kunshan University.
The second day of the orientation provided essential information about library resources that will be available to all Duke students this fall. While access to physical books will continue to be reserved until it is safe for the campus facilities to reopen for all students, the East Asian library staff are committed to ensuring that the students are aware of the materials that can be accessed from anywhere in the world, including an extensive collection of journal articles, periodicals, and even scanned copies of material items.
After the library orientation, there was time for the students to get to know one another less formally, albeit from a distance. The networking included some of their counterparts in the Critical Asian Humanities degree program. APSI plans additional social events to facilitate connections between this group and students from around the university who are working on an interdisciplinary graduate certificate in East Asian Studies.