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Hypnautical

M.A. in Asian Studies at UC Berkeley or USF? M.A. in Asian American Studies at SF State?

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I had an underwhelming GPA in a difficult major from a top 10 but underrated public research university. I'm also in my late 30s - I've been thinking of grad/professional school for a long time, but I know it will be very challenging, and may not be worth it.

For a while now, I'm been thinking of applying to the M.A. in Asian Studies at UC Berkeley and the M.A. in Asia Pacific Studies at University of San Francisco. I'd much prefer Asian American Studies, but very few schools offer an M.A. in that - the closest one seems to be UCLA, and I'd like to stay local and commute to school. There's an M.A. in Asian American Studies at SF State, but I know that SFSU doesn't have anywhere near the name recognition of UCB.


My goals for those programs is to write, get published, be a "thought leader" (sorry if it sounds arrogant; it's not meant to be) in Asian or Asian American Studies, maybe lecture, and possibly teach in some capacity. My main goal would be to be a published author, whether through books, articles, journal papers, online digital content, etc. I just think of these master's programs as giving me a jumping point into what I want to do. I'd also love to go through the grad school experience - it would probably be very personally enriching. Also, like many people, I've always thought I would go to grad school, and it would be great to go to grad school at a top university.

Any thoughts on the M.A. in Asian Studies at Berkeley, the M.A. in Asia Pacific Studies at USF, or the M.A. in Asian American Studies at SFSU? Has anyone gone through those programs, or know people who have completed them? How hard is it to get into those 3 programs? What is it like taking those programs, what do you learn or get out of it, what are the courses/students/professors like, and what do students do after they get their M.A.?

Any other schools/masters programs you can recommend to me that are in the Bay Area, close to San Francisco? I'm also open to online masters programs, but there are hardly any offered in these fields, and they're from no-name and questionable schools.
 

Edited by Hypnautical

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Take the one that will give you the least amount of debt.  Really.

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SFSU may not have the reputation of Berkeley, but it’s still a solid program. I may be extrapolating from the history program, but I know that SFSU has pumped out excellent candidates for phds in the past. Plus it’s cheaper than Berkeley. But if you can get funding for UCB or USF, I’d recommend those routes too.

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If your goal is to be a "thought leader" in Asian/Asian American studies, none of those degrees will get you there. Scholars almost exclusively read other scholars, i.e. people with PhDs. If your goal is to be a published writer speaking to a broader audience, then find yourself a good writing group and start a daily writing practice. If your goal is to enjoy the grad school environment, I agree with the above advice: apply to all three and see which give you the most funding.

I'm somewhat familiar with the AsAm studies MA at SF State and the Asian Studies MA at Cal. Some of the students use the MA as a launching pad to PhD programs. This is more common with Cal Asian Studies. One of the big selling points of the program is to work on fluency in Asian languages, and if you don't already have some ability in the Asian language of your research area I don't think the program would be a good fit. FYI - the program almost never accepts students primarily interested in "diaspora" topics unless the diaspora is inter-Asian. The SFSU AsAm studies folk tend to be more social justice/community work oriented - I've met a number in double degree programs (e.g. with education or social work). At both places, it seems possible to TA or GSI for some tuition remission. 

Hope this helps.

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Asian studies and Asian American studies are (as you point out) in pretty different places right now--you may be more likely to get what you want from an American studies program than an Asian studies program (said as someone who spends a lot of time in American studies, which is really better titled "critical theory"/"critical race studies"/"critical urban studies" etc at most schools). You can do an MA at SFSU and still be well-placed to enter PhD programs as a competitive candidate--I'm honestly not sure how much anyone cares where you did your MA given that a lot of prestige MAs are cash cows. Go wherever you'll get into the least debt, and where you can find a supportive advisor. 

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Thanks for all the responses so far. I'm mainly interested in Asian American Studies - and from a social justice standpoint, too. I've noticed that Asian American Studies programs focus a lot on discrimination, stereotyping, and injustices - what Asian Americans have faced for centuries in America. Whereas Asian studies programs are a lot less about that - little to no social justice focus - because it's about Asians in Asia. The vibe of Asian studies lectures I've attended have been very neutral, while the vibe of Asian American stuff tend to be angry and sad - from trauma and injustice. 

There's a rare PhD in Asian American Studies at UCLA, but I think that's too far, and I don't want to move there. 

I'm afraid of not fitting into any grad program - particularly activist/social justice-oriented ones like Asian American Studies or anything like that. So I'm very afraid of being judged and excluded by the faculty and peers. I fear I'll have a painful grad school experience, if I ever do get in and attend. Again, I'm in my late 30s, and I don't look young for my age - so age-ism might be a very real problem, too. And I'm always wrongly seen as "conservative," though I'm far from that, and people who are into social justice never see me as one of them. One of my reasons for looking into Asian Studies as well as Asian American Studies is that I might look like I "belong" in Asian Studies a little more because the vibe is more neutral and not angry activist - I'll never be accepted by social justice types, even though I am extremely social justice-oriented. My mission and goal, of course, is to publish, speak, and make a difference. Asian Americans still suffer from many injustices that are little-known and unacknowledged, and are some of the most depressed and anxious groups in America. 

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@Hypnautical I think you are many a lot of assumption grounded in your anxiety as a non-traditional student.  Being anxious about fitting in with young people and the faculty is completely normal.  I'm not sure how you are seen as "conservative."  If your personality comes across as "neutral" (in your view), you can simply respond that you are a reserved person by nature. People who take the time to get to know you will recognize that you also share the same passion for exploring the question of justice within Asian American Studies and respect you.  The faculty will be much more mature and take the time to work with you.  You will visit them in their office hours and participate in their classes and they will get a fuller view of who you are, what you are interested in, and why you came to graduate school. Your (younger) peers will be a toss-up but you will be (I hope) inspired by their energy, even if "angry." 

I would truly recommend contacting Judy Wu at UC Irvine.  Her program doesn't have a graduate degree for non-UCI students but I think you will be intrigued by her research and activist experience.  She might be able to offer insights what Asian American Studies grad programs are about and post-graduate avenues.  (https://www.faculty.uci.edu/profile.cfm?faculty_id=6123)

And, I agree with you, Asian Studies tends to be focused on the Asian continent and its transnational ties. So if you are interested in Asians within the context of US, then Asian-American Studies or US history/American Studies program will be better fit.

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@TMP I know it's a little hard to know just what my struggles are based on what I've posted in this thread. My difficulties are very complex. If you'd like to hear more in a PM, let me know. 

Thanks for the link to Judy Wu at UC Irvine. I'll check out her profile and maybe contact her to see if she can offer any insights. 

 

 

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On 11/6/2018 at 5:24 PM, Hypnautical said:

Thanks for all the responses so far. I'm mainly interested in Asian American Studies - and from a social justice standpoint, too. I've noticed that Asian American Studies programs focus a lot on discrimination, stereotyping, and injustices - what Asian Americans have faced for centuries in America. Whereas Asian studies programs are a lot less about that - little to no social justice focus - because it's about Asians in Asia. The vibe of Asian studies lectures I've attended have been very neutral, while the vibe of Asian American stuff tend to be angry and sad - from trauma and injustice. 

There's a rare PhD in Asian American Studies at UCLA, but I think that's too far, and I don't want to move there. 

I'm afraid of not fitting into any grad program - particularly activist/social justice-oriented ones like Asian American Studies or anything like that. So I'm very afraid of being judged and excluded by the faculty and peers. I fear I'll have a painful grad school experience, if I ever do get in and attend. Again, I'm in my late 30s, and I don't look young for my age - so age-ism might be a very real problem, too. And I'm always wrongly seen as "conservative," though I'm far from that, and people who are into social justice never see me as one of them. One of my reasons for looking into Asian Studies as well as Asian American Studies is that I might look like I "belong" in Asian Studies a little more because the vibe is more neutral and not angry activist - I'll never be accepted by social justice types, even though I am extremely social justice-oriented. My mission and goal, of course, is to publish, speak, and make a difference. Asian Americans still suffer from many injustices that are little-known and unacknowledged, and are some of the most depressed and anxious groups in America. 

I understand that you're anxious about cohorts etc, but honestly I'd encourage you to spend more time thinking about your work and where you're going to be best able to do that work. This thing about "young people" needs to go. I have some insight into ageism as someone approaching 30, who looks 12, with a partner who's almost 40. There will be people your age at grad school--by far my closest friend in the cohort is in her late 30s--but age aside it's just another workplace with a bunch of different people and you'll get along with some better than others. I don't know what you mean by conservative but again if you're confident in the work you're doing and its significance then who cares whether this "angry" cohort that you're imagining is going to see you as one of them. There's a bunch of stuff going on in your posts only some of which really seems to be about grad school and how to pick the right programs to apply to, but in terms of grad schools, think about advisors, think about where you can do the work you want to do, think about funding and placement, and then leave the stuff you can't control (like fears about cohort) for later. 

Edited by OHSP

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Posted (edited)

As someone familiar with the MAPS program at USF, I can give you this advice...

1.) The program is short. Four semesters and a summer if you need to fill in your foreign language skills. They will work with you to complete your language component but will strongly try to steer you into a summer program abroad or you may be working by yourself or in small groups with a language instructor. That can work well for some but limits your practical language skills/use quite a bit.

2.) The program has two tracks: a humanities/social sciences and business track. There is also an option to pursue a MAPS and MBA dual degree. The classes are designed for professionals, running MW or TuThu from about 6 to 9 most of the week.

3.) USF is a smaller, Jesuit institution with some prestigious archives if you are interested in the Christianity in Japan and China.

4.) It is a program, not a department, attached to the Center for Asia Pacific Studies. There is a program assistant, an administrative director, and academic director. They generally hold appointments in other departments such as rhetoric or religion. There is no dedicated core faculty - they all have additional responsibilities outside the program.

5.) There is some small funding opportunities available - generally a "first year" MAPS scholarship which amounts to about half a semester's cost ($5000 scholarship vs $11000/semester). You may also secure a second year merit-based scholarship of a similar amount. There are no other funding opportunities beyond two years, so make sure you grab one in your second year.

6.) They do fund conference travel in small amounts - I was able to use it three times over the course of two spring semesters and a summer. Make it count! It can definitely cover travel in-state but further afield is your own expense.

7.) They recently went to Japan in 2017 as part of the Kakehashi program with the Japanese government. They may or may not be chasing other opportunities like this - it was a one-time deal but all expenses paid for two weeks in Japan.

8.) You can expect a diverse cohort, but not necessarily one that is academically inclined. Lots of exchange students, many focused on business, social justice, LGBTQ+ studies, historians, Marxists, veterans, etc. I experienced at least a few that had some pretty skewed perceptions on Japan and Asia: i.e., the exotic Orient and other toxicity.

9.) The program tapered off a bit and was almost shut down about ten years or so ago if I remember. It has grown quite a bit in recent years - from about 20 folks in more cohort to almost double in the next. They are trying to grow but are struggling with the limits of their situation (program, not department, not directly affiliated with any undergrad programs) and the quality of the applicants they receive. Many of the students now skew younger but once it was older adults and professionals.

10.) This is a bit of prestige program - you get a cursory familiarity with 1800's-era Asia (mostly China, Japan, some push for including Korea) to present. You will select spring first year and all of your second year classes and you do have some choices, but they are relatively self-contained and do not directly "flow" into other parts of the program. Bring a strong sense of what you want to do in this program. I think you can embed and get a lot out of it if you do that. Otherwise, you may find yourself lost.

11.) You do not complete a Thesis but instead work on a capstone your second year. You are required to take a seminar Fall 2nd year that illustrates how you approach many different topics within the region (gender and sexuality, business, security, etc) and develop an original topic that will carry over to spring your second year. Your "last" course is the Capstone, where you spend half the semester discussing a single topic through the lens of the Asia-Pacific that is timely and relevant. The current theme is global warming. The second half of that final class you break into small writing groups and revise/polish your project from the fall. You are expected to include original research - archival, ethnographic, quantitative, etc.

Edited by Fantasmapocalypse
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