Harvard University will soon introduce a new course that will focus on Tagalog, the fourth most widely spoken language in the United States, along with two other languages that will be taught, Indonesian and Thai.
The university's Department of South Asian Studies plans to hire three additional faculty members to teach these three languages. All three will also begin in the 2023/2024 academic year. For the first time, Harvard will begin teaching Tagalog, Bahasa Indonesia, and Thai this fall.
According to The Harvard Crimson, Executive Director Elizabeth K. Liao said that the Harvard University Asia Center has successfully secured financial support for the position through fundraising efforts.
The faculty position will initially last for three years, with the possibility of renewal for up to five more years, and will be supported by an allocation of US$1 million (equivalent to S$1.3 million) obtained through fundraising efforts.
Currently, Harvard does not have a separate department for Southeast Asian Studies. In the list of courses offered for the 2022-2023 academic year, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences offers only one course related to the Philippines, a course that provides an overview of Southeast Asian history.
On the other hand, James Robson, professor of East Asian languages and civilizations and director of the Harvard Asia Center, said that the department has been working hard over the past two years to expand the scope of Southeast Asian education at the University.
By introducing this new language course, he hopes that the department can demonstrate the high level of interest in Southeast Asian languages at Harvard. In addition, he hopes that this move will help convince the University administration to provide more support for Southeast Asian studies programs.
The presence of these language courses reflects Harvard's determination to promote diversity and inclusiveness in its academic offerings.