Studying Asia: The New Minor Starts This Fall

By Brianna Gleghorn

Michael Jerryson first thought of starting an Asian studies minor at Youngstown State University when a visiting professor from Florida spoke on the legacy of China and how he started the minor at his own university in the 1980s.

Realizing YSU was one of the few universities in the country to not have this program, Jerryson, an associate professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, decided to create the minor.

Jerryson noticed there were several courses at YSU that focused on Asia in topics such as art, economics, philosophy and more.

According to Jerryson, 60% of the world’s population lives in Asia, making the area very important to educate people about.

“We in Youngstown are living in an area that is not very transnational or global,” he said. “Even though in Youngstown we don’t see it as much, by wearing it, hearing it and seeing it, we realize Asia is incredibly important.” 

In Jerryson’s opinion, every major could benefit from having an Asian studies minor because it gives students a well-rounded education and teaches them about a major power in the world.

“The minor will be excellent to showcase your ability to appeal to people, not just in your bubble but the world in general,” he said.

Jerryson will be teaching the first introduction to Asian studies course, which will serve as an entry course to the minor, in the spring semester of 2020.

Along with the introduction course, students in the minor will be required to take one year of an Asian language and four other courses pertaining to Asia. The introduction course will inform students about the variety of courses offered.

Johnathan Farris, an assistant professor of art history, has done research focused on “the artistic and architectural products of cultural exchange between Asia and the West.”

“The study of Asia allows you to be exposed to all sorts of different ways of conceiving, particularly the arts,” Farris said. “Different approaches to painting and different approaches to literature also are present in the diversity of cultures that make up Eastern South Asia.”

In Farris’ opinion, while studying Asian studies is important in a business or economic field, it’s also important with art.

“Exposure to the stories on which many famous films and even Japanese animated features and things like that have specific cultural origins,” he said.

Rose Rivera, a senior interdisciplinary art major, added the Asian studies minor this semester only to find out she almost has it completed. 

“A lot of my artistic interest and overall interests lie in Asia, Asian studies,” Rivera said. “So for this to arise worked out very well for me. My courses and interest lined up with it.”

Rivera said she feels very strongly about Asian studies and is very excited for more students to get involved with the minor and seek it out.

“It’s a whole region, a whole variety of cultures,” she said. “That doesn’t just amass one particular topic like art or economics. You’re learning about people, which, of course, anyone could benefit from.”

Before college, Rivera said it was “very seldom” that she was able to learn about Asia. When picking classes in college, she felt drawn to classes that focused on Asia.

“For there to be so many [Asia focused] classes that it can amount to a whole minor is very exciting,” Rivera said.