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Asian Studies (Cluster and Certificate)

Faculty in the Asian Studies Graduate Cluster (ASGC) offer comprehensive yet focused exposure to Asian cultures, histories and societies with an emphasis on transdisciplinary research and methodologies. The program trains students in advanced research and interdisciplinary studies across the humanities and social sciences. Specializations offered include Chinese, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, South and Southeast Asian, and Vietnamese culture, history, literature, media studies, and political sciences; Buddhist Studies; Hinduism; the arts of China, Japan, South Asia, and the Himalayan region; and modern Asian Politics.

Students interested in pursuing a PhD in Art History, Communication Studies, Comparative Literary Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, History, Music, Performance Studies, Philosophy, Political Science, Religion, and Sociology are encouraged to find a second intellectual “home” in this interdisciplinary cluster. The cluster’s curriculum is meant to lead students through structures that are central for understanding the past, present, and future of Asian traditions and societies. It is by taking courses with ASGC faculty, and by interacting in a lively and consistent way at ASGC sponsored events and activities, at all levels, that graduate students can create and foster an intellectual community of scholars interested in Asia from a variety of perspectives, beyond narrow disciplinary confines that too often relegate the study of Asia to the margins of training and research.

There are many different ways for faculty and students to participate in the intellectual life of the cluster. Many ASGC events, such as visiting lecturers and conferences, are open to all members of the University. Seminars taught by ASGC faculty are open to graduate students across the University. We encourage all students, faculty, and staff of Northwestern to learn more about our research and activities by participating in our public events.

How to participate

Matriculating graduate students interested in participating in this cluster should indicate their interest when they apply to their respective graduate programs. Current graduate students interested in participating in this cluster should contact Professor Haydon Cherry at

Who to contact

Please contact the program director, listed below, with questions about this program. Or, explore the Asian Studies website for more information.

The following requirements are in addition to, or further elaborate upon, those requirements outlined in The Graduate School Policy Guide.

The interdisciplinary program in Asian Studies at Northwestern offers two levels of participation open to all graduate students in programs and departments throughout the university, the Graduate Certificate Program and the ASGC Interdisciplinary Graduate Cluster membership.

The two levels of participation offer students flexibility for incorporating interdisciplinary approaches into their graduate education. The program's courses and other graduate activities do not differentiate between Cluster and Certificate students. All graduate students interested in Asian Studies are welcome to join the cluster even if they elect not to pursue a certificate.

In general, students are encouraged to join the Cluster and to begin the Certificate Program in the first year of graduate study. Students are strongly encouraged to confer, by fall quarter of their third year, with their thesis advisors and the Cluster Director, to determine their progress to date towards meeting either the certificate or the cluster’s requirements.


Students in established departmental graduate programs can choose to join the Asian Studies Graduate Cluster. The cluster provides basic training in Asian studies and is an alternative to the Graduate Certificate in Asian Studies (for those students whose schedules do not allow for the completion of certificate requirement). The cluster is open to all interested graduate students. This credential does not appear on transcripts.

Students may also choose to participate only in the colloquium in the winter and/or spring quarters. However, only active members of the cluster, who have fulfilled the following requirements, are eligible to apply for fellowships administered through the Cluster.

  • Three 400-level courses designed to provide students with broad theoretical and methodological training chosen from the core courses offered by Asian Studies faculty. For one of the above, you may substitute a 300-level course taken for graduate credit, pending the cluster director and instructor approval.
  • At least two quarters’ involvement in the Asian Studies Graduate Colloquium, meeting every other week in winter and spring of each academic year.


The Graduate Certificate in Asian Studies is designed to give students in Northwestern graduate programs advanced training in Asian studies. The Certificate provides an important credential as they establish careers in scholarship and teaching positions that combine traditional academic disciplines with interdisciplinary work in Asian studies. This credential appears on students’ transcripts.

  • Five 400-level courses taught by Asian Studies faculty in at least three different disciplines to provide students with broad theoretical and methodological training. Students may double- count pertinent courses taken for credit in their home departments. They may substitute independent studies or 300-level courses taken for graduate credit, subject to certificate director and instructor approval.
  • At least two quarters’ involvement in the Asian Studies Graduate Colloquium, 
meeting every other week in winter and spring of each academic year. Students and occasionally faculty members present work-in-progress at colloquium meetings.
  • One major research project, of article length or longer, which addresses current concerns in the large field of Asian studies and demonstrates the student’s willingness and capacity to work beyond his/her immediate cultural area of specialization. The project may be comparative in nature, or it could focus on one single geographic region (for example, a China specialist may choose to work on a subject related to Japan, or vice versa). Examples of suitable research projects include second-year papers or master's theses, doctoral research papers, or any other major research project acceptable to the Director of ASGC. Students are required to submit the proposed research project, along with a short but official letter from the student’s mentor on this project—who should be selected from the Asian Studies faculty—confirming it as having satisfied this requirement, to the Director of ASGC by the end of the Winter quarter of their third year.