Asian American Studies majors will have a new opportunity to conduct their own research and further their studies in the field, thanks to a new honors program now available in the department, approved by the UCSB Academic Senate on Nov. 1.

The department, which will begin accepting applications for the honors program during Spring Quarter of the current academic year, is expecting to admit only about 15 students for the 2007-2008 school year. The proposal was submitted to the Academic Senate – a body responsible for approving additions to departmental curricula – in July.

Asian American Studies associate professor Celine Parrenas Shimizu, who presented the honors program proposal to the administration, said the honors curriculum will offer students a better opportunity to contribute to the body of academic knowledge for the field than was possible in the past.

“Previous to this program being approved, students were doing research in isolation,” Shimizu said. “Now a community of research can be cultivated, and a generation of public scholarship can become recognizable.”

The new honors program will require students to take two additional courses – one in methodology and research and a second required honors seminar – in order to complete the major.

In addition, two optional courses will be available to those enrolled in the program, including one course taught by the participant’s faculty advisor in the humanities, social science, cultural studies or production field. The other optional course will provide honors program students with an opportunity to conduct their own field research about a qualified topic they wish to explore, and later present their findings to Asian American Studies faculty in a departmental gathering.

Students applying to the honors program must have a cumulative 3.5 GPA in the major and junior standing. Applicants must also submit a proposal stating their potential research topic and their preference for a potential faculty supervisor. Upon admittance to the program, students will have the option of presenting their thesis through traditional scholarship, expressive art or community studies.

Shimizu said combining the interdisciplinary nature of the Asian American Studies department with a structured opportunity for students to conduct research on their own will allow honors program enrollees to more intricately explore ethnic communities.

Shimizu said her goal was to encourage students to collaborate in academia and form a community of colleagues among them in the field of Asian American Studies, both of which she hopes the honors program will allow.

“I hope students’ specific concerns can come out through shared methods of scholarship and formalized work,” Shimizu said.