I. Introduction and General Information

I. Introduction and General Information

For decades one of the world's great centers for the study of East Asia, the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard is home to a superb faculty offering courses in the languages and cultures of China, Japan, Korea, and Inner Asia, from ancient times to the present. With the strong support of  the world-renowned Harvard-Yenching Library and the various regional centers and research institutes, EALC strives to maintain the highest levels of academic achievement at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

This handbook is designed to provide essential information regarding Department organization, the PhD program, and EALC faculty. Much of this information may also be found on the Department website which is updated throughout the year.

Further information on GSAS regulations and requirements may be found in the Graduate School’s Handbook, published annually.

Detailed information on many topics covered here is also available on the GSAS website.

About EALC

The Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, informally referred to as EALC (ee-ay-ell-see), is one of 57 or so departments and separately constituted committees of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) authorized to grant the PhD degree. While the broad structure of the program conforms to the standards set by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), the particular requirements are determined by the Department itself.

As far as departments at Harvard go in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), EALC is a middle-sized program. Some key numbers (current for Fall 2019) are as follows:

29 ladder-rank faculty (assistant professors, associate professors, professors of the practice, and professors)

32 language instruction staff

73 graduate students (24 in HEAL)

34 undergraduate concentrators

In addition, several hundred undergraduate students enroll every year in the Department’s language courses.

Like many doctoral programs at Harvard, the Department is decidedly international in its makeup, both in terms of faculty and of students. While the numbers vary from year to year, approximately one half of EALC and HEAL graduate students are Americans; with other students coming mainly from Canada, East Asia and Europe. Student disciplinary interests are divided roughly evenly between History/Philosophy on the one hand and Literature/Religion on the other. Slightly more than one-half of EALC and HEAL students state that their primary focus is on China or China/Inner Asia, the remaining students are divided approximately evenly between Japan and Korea specialists. All these divisions are in many cases arbitrary, as more and more students are taking interdisciplinary and interregional approaches in their work. Apart from English, the other linguae francae in the Department are Japanese and literary Chinese, competency in those languages being required of nearly every student.

Department Structure

EALC is classified for administrative purposes within the Division of the Humanities, one of three divisions in FAS (the others are Social Sciences and Natural Sciences). The dean of the Division of the Humanities, to whom the Chair reports most directly, is Robin Kelsey.

The Department is led by the Chair, Professor David Howell, assisted by the Director of Administration, John Park, and is governed by the faculty, which meets monthly during the academic year. Votes on policy generally include senior faculty (i.e., full professors), junior faculty (associate and assistant professors), and language faculty (senior preceptors, preceptors, and instructors).

In some matters, Department policy is determined by GSAS guidelines and requirements. GSAS policy in turn is shaped by the dean of the Graduate School, Emma Dench, together with the GSAS Administrative Dean, Dr. Allen Aloise. Dean Dench reports to the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Claudine Gay, who reports to University President Larry Bacow.

Matters pertaining to the undergraduate concentration are handled by the Director of Undergraduate Studies (in AY 2022-23, Professor Melissa McCormick). Graduate affairs are the responsibility of the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) (in AY 2022-23, Professor Tomiko Yoda) and the Academic Program Committee, assisted by the Graduate Program Coordinator. Other permanent committees of the Department include the Planning Committee and the Language Committee. Various ad hoc committees may also be appointed by the chair as needed.

Department Quarters

The EALC main office is located on the second floor of the building at 2 Divinity Avenue (“2 Div”). This building is marked on many Harvard maps as “Harvard-Yenching Library.” The offices of most ladder-rank faculty in the Department are found here, as are faculty mailboxes. The Department office is open from 9 am to 5 pm daily. There are three classrooms upstairs at 2 Div, in which many Department classes take place. Downstairs, apart from HYL and a few faculty offices, are found the offices of the Harvard-Yenching Institute and the Harvard-Yenching Common Room. The Common Room is the site of many Department functions. At times when the Common Room is not otherwise reserved for use by HYI or the Department, students are free to meet here, eat lunch, socialize, etc.

The EALC Undergraduate Program Office and the Graduate Program Office are located on the first floor at 9 Kirkland Place. This is a three-story yellow clapboard house just behind (east) of 2 Div. The graduate student lounge and graduate student mailboxes are here, as is an often-used seminar room. Upstairs at 9 Kirkland Place are offices of emeriti and visiting faculty.

The EALC Language Programs in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese are housed at 5 Bryant Street. This is a large house converted to classroom and office use, about a 7-minute walk from 2 Div. Most language classes are held in Vanserg Hall, located about halfway between 2 Div and 5 Bryant St.

Administrative Staff

To sustain its activities and campus role, the Department relies upon its dedicated staff, led by Alison Howe, Director of Administration. She is assisted by the following people, all of whom you are likely to come to know during your time here.

Gustavo Espada, Financial and Systems Coordinator
Naia Poyer, Undergraduate Program Coordinator
Carolyn Choong, Graduate Program Coordinator
Rebecca Mahoney, Language Program Coordinator 
Susan Kashiwa, Staff Assistant
Leo Rosenstein, Staff Assistant

Electronic Mail

Upon registration, new students are assigned e-mail accounts by Harvard University Information Technology (HUIT). The typical address contains one’s last name (or some variation thereon), followed by the @fas.harvard.edu domain name, or @g.harvard.edu. If you do not have an FAS e-mail account, contact HUIT.

Please inform the Graduate Program Coordinator of your email address so that you may be added to the Department’s mailing aliases. Your address will be published on the Department website and will also be available to anyone who searches the University’s phone book.

The Department relies heavily upon e-mail to communicate with students and faculty alike. Important announcements from the Chair, the DGS, and the Graduate Coordinator arrive regularly by e-mail, and many seminars depend upon e-mail contact as well to deliver necessary information, last-minute changes, etc. In addition, the Harvard libraries deliver all notices via e-mail. Students are responsible for checking – and reading – e-mail on a regular basis during the term (this includes looking into the “junk” and “spam” boxes for mistakenly diverted messages). Failure to check e-mail daily may lead to missed deadlines, missed classes, and missed opportunities.

Department Website

The Department maintains a website that is updated periodically through the year. The website contains essential information on all aspects of Department activities, including a calendar of events and notices of upcoming deadlines. The URL for the homepage is http://ealc.fas.harvard.edu.

Graduate Life

The relationships one forms in graduate school are very often among the longest-lasting relationships in one’s life, since today’s teachers and classmates are tomorrow’s colleagues. The Department believes that the vitality of its intellectual community depends greatly upon the participation of its graduate students in the life of the Department.

“Participation” involves much more than simply attending classes and turning in one’s work. There is a whole host of activities – lectures, seminars, workshops, conferences, screenings, readings, performances, and so on – which students and faculty jointly attend and which are just as important in providing the stuff of conversation and intellectual exchange and the inspiration for future collaboration. Taking active part in such events is especially important in EALC, as the Department differs from many others in that its students are unified by a common interest in the languages, literatures, histories, and cultures of East Asia, and not by a shared discipline.

The number of Asia-related events at Harvard is very great; in some weeks, there are two or three events every day, and on weekends during the term there is as likely as not some kind of workshop taking place. One ends up having to choose carefully what to attend. But not to attend would be to miss out on a major part of one’s education, since it is frequently at these events – and particularly the discussions following presentations – that one sees ideas (and sparks!) fly most passionately. To be notified in advance of upcoming Asia-related events, students are encouraged to sign up for the Asia Bulletin, a weekly electronic listserv published by the Asia Center with comprehensive information on all relevant goings-on. To subscribe, contact Michelle Blouin.

Students should also pay attention to posters and flyers in mailboxes and in the halls, and to e-mails sent directly by the Asia Center, the Fairbank Center, the Reischauer Institute, and the Korea Institute. Students in a particular discipline should be aware of activities outside EALC. For instance, HEAL students should be aware of events sponsored by the Department of History; students in literature, of activities at the Humanities Center and the various literature departments, such as Comparative Literature; and students in Buddhism, of talks in the Buddhist Studies Forum and activities at Divinity School.

Special attention is called to those events of which the Department itself is the primary sponsor, such as the China Humanities Seminar (on Monday afternoons in the Harvard-Yenching Common Room).

To complement these extracurricular academic offerings, the Department supports a number of casual social events during the year, including Fall and Spring parties. Receptions typically follow talks held in the Department, and take place on the second floor at 2 Divinity. Announcements of these events are made a few weeks in advance.

Graduate student social life is centered on the EALC Graduate Student Lounge, an admittedly modest space located on the first floor at 9 Kirkland Place. The lounge offers computers, wireless access to the internet, and a couple of comfortable chairs. Graduate student mailboxes are here, too, and job postings and announcements of talks are posted for easy reference. The lounge is adjacent to a kitchen and a refrigerator, which is at the disposal of all. There is another refrigerator in the kitchen upstairs at 2 Div, and a very small refrigerator in the H-Y Common Room.

Department social life has been greatly enhanced by the Graduate Social Committee, which is responsible for organizing events such as the every other Friday Happy Hour. More information on the activities of the Social Committee is available from the Graduate Program Coordinator or from current members of the Committee: Benjamin Gallant, Wenjiao Cai, and Peng Hai.

EALC Graduate Liaison Committee

The primary goal of this committee is to facilitate communication between faculty, staff, and graduate students beyond the regularly held town halls. By offering representation and advocacy for different voices within the graduate student body, the committee presents the department with the opinions of graduate students on issues that directly affect their academic and professional interests and well-being. The committee can hold the department accountable when issues arise without fear of retaliation.

As an incentive to volunteer, graduate students will have the position officially recognized as a form of service to the department that can be included on their CV.

The GLC meets at least once a semester in order to provide a forum for discussing the concerns, issues, ideas, and initiatives of graduate students. These ideas are presented to the Chair and the DGS at the town halls and on a regular basis. The committee ensures that discussions and resulting actions are documented and distributed to the student body. Two members of the committee regularly meet with the Chair and the DGS, attend the EALC department meetings, and subsequently report to the graduate students about their proceedings. All graduate students can contact the GLC at any time with questions, concerns, or suggestions. They are, of course, also encouraged to directly contact faculty members, the DGS, and the Chair. Information on current members of the GLC will be made available at the start of each academic year.

The GLC consists of six graduate students representing regional and disciplinary diversity, gender parity, and different G years. GLC members volunteer to serve; if more than six volunteer, elections will be held. GLC members vote for a chair and a vice-chair, whose responsibilities include leading meetings, deciding on representatives who will attend department meetings, and disseminating information to the graduate student body.

The Harvard-Yenching Library

The Harvard-Yenching Library (HYL) was founded in 1928, at the same time as the Harvard-Yenching Institute. It thus predates the founding of the Department and indeed laid the foundation for the growth of the Department and of East Asian studies generally at the University.

HYL is the third largest of Harvard’s libraries (only Widener and the Law School libraries are larger), and houses the largest East Asian collection of any university outside Asia. Its collections include over one million volumes, including approximately 659,000 in Chinese, 296,000 in Japanese, 129,000 in Korean, 47,000 in various Western languages, plus extensive holdings in Vietnamese, Tibetan, Manchu, and Mongolian. In addition, the library subscribes to over 6,700 current periodicals and journals and hosts access to a rapidly expanding array of electronic databases. More information and links to these and other resources (such as the “Digital Resources” and “Research Guides” pages) may be found on the HYL webpage.

Housed together with HYL at 2 Divinity Avenue, the Department has always enjoyed a close relationship with the Library. Faculty members are regularly consulted in collection development, and their research needs, as well as the research needs of graduate students, are significant factors in shaping future growth. Incoming graduate students are given introductory tours of HYL, and Library staff offer a number of orientations and research workshops throughout the year for all users.