William & Mary will offer the state’s first Japanese degree program

The Wren Building at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. Tuition and mandatory fees for in-state students at William and Mary were the highest of any of the state's public higher education institutions, according to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. (Wikimedia Commons)

The College of William & Mary will be the first public college in Virginia to offer a bachelor’s degree program in Japanese studies starting this fall, fulfilling a need for the business and governmental sectors.

The State Council for Higher Education of Virginia approved William and Mary’s new program this week. The council must approve new degree programs at accredited institutions of higher education. 

“We’re excited to offer students a deeper engagement with Japanese culture, society, politics and business, and to give them the cultural knowledge and linguistic skills to become experts on Japan,” said Michael Cronin, program director for Japanese Studies and associate professor of modern languages at William & Mary. “We certainly appreciate SCHEV’s recognition of the value and promise of this program.”

Students at the University of Virginia can pursue a Japanese major through the school’s interdisciplinary studies program, which allows students to design their own major. At UVA, students get a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies. At William & Mary, students will get a bachelor’s degree in Japanese Studies that includes learning the language and culture.

The U.S. State Department considers Japanese one of the most difficult languages for native English speakers to learn, SCHEV wrote in agenda materials about William & Mary’s new program. But it’s an important language and culture to know — Japan is one of the world’s largest economies and one of the U.S’ “most important allies,” SCHEV wrote, summarizing information from the U.S. State Department.

Japanese is considered one of the 10 most important languages to know in the business world and one of the most common languages used on the internet, staff noted.

Plus, there appears to be enough William & Mary students interested in pursuing a Japanese major to meet SCHEV’s policy on academic program viability.

Lower-level Japanese language courses have been among the most popular at the college, surpassing enrollment in Chinese classes (which is notable because William & Mary already offers a Chinese Language and Culture major). And in a survey of of 73 students enrolled in Japanese language courses at the school this past spring semester, 52 percent said they would have declared a Japanese major if it had been available.

William & Mary anticipates its first class of Japanese Studies majors will be 12 students in the 2023-4 academic year.

Other degree programs waiting for SCHEV approval include:

  • Bachelor of Science in data science at William & Mary
  • Master of Science in athletic training at Radford University.
  • Bachelor of Science in health sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Doctorate in business; master’s of science in cybersecurity engineering; Master of Law in cyber, intelligence and national security; and master’s degree in climate science at George Mason University
  • Master of Science in data science and analytics at Old Dominion University
  • Master of Arts in media culture and technology; and master’s degree in urban design program at University of Virginia