Graduate Program

Student Profiles

One of the many advantages of majoring in Asian Studies is having access to a tight-knit and diverse community of students, faculty, and staff. We have listed below information about our undergraduate association and profiles of our graduate students to give you a sense of student life here.

M.A. candidates

Valerie Black's research interests include cultural factors impacting food production, safety, regulation, sustainability, and boundaries between food and medicine in East Asia, particularly Japan.

Mindy Chen graduated from Occidental College with a BA in history and a minor in Chinese. Throughout her time there, she interned at various museums including the National Palace Museum in Taipei, the J. Paul Getty Center in Los Angeles, and the International Dunhuang Project at the British Library, and also studied abroad in Rome. Her senior thesis concerned Sogdian traders on the Silk Road during the Tang Dynasty, and she hopes to continue exploring her interests in the Central Asia/Western China dynamic. She enjoys buying more books than she has time to read and eating nicer meals than her wallet can afford. Her hobbies would likely be more extensive if she spent less time sleeping past noon.

Muyang Chen received her B.A. from Peking University with a major of International Politics. Fascinated by the Japanese popular culture, she joined the Peking University - Waseda University Double-degree Program and spent a year in Tokyo. There she studied the political, economic and cultural issues of Japan, and conducted an anthropological fieldwork investigating the Burakumin, Japan's hidden minority, and had her graduation thesis on the issue. At Berkeley, her studies are focused on the contemporary political economy of Japan and international relations of Asia. Muyang is a fan of Japanese anime, especially of Studio Ghibli productions. She loves walking down the slope from the Sather Tower while enjoying the sea view because it feels like strolling in a Ghibli movie.

Robert Curl's research interests include modern Japanese history and culture from 1860, with special interest in fringe cultures, subcultures, marginalized minorities, and other "outsider" groups.

Haodong Han has majored in International Relations and Sinhala, the official language of Sri Lanka, in Beijing Foreign Studies University. In 2008 he spent half a year in Sri Lanka to develop his language skills and observe the local rural society. During his undergraduate study in Beijing, he also interned in various institutions, including the central government, banks, securities firms and transnational corporations in China. Now his research interest is the comparative study of economic development of China and India. Besides, Haodong is a fanatic lover of classical music. He enjoys playing the piano, and is happy to find friends to play chamber music in UC Berkeley. Also, he loves travelling abroad.

Yuanxi Huang received her bachelor's degree from Communication University of China. She had worked for two years as a full-time news researcher with the New York Times Beijing Bureau before she came to Berkeley in 2009. Upon the completion of the master program of journalism with Berkeley, she is now pursuing a dual degree on East Asian Studies. She's interested in the role of media on China's social development, and China's environmental issues associated with economic development. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, reading and traveling.

Grace Jeon grew up in Louisville, Kentucky and entered Indiana University to pursue her bachelor's degree in Violin performance under the instruction of Henryk Kowalski. With a change in heart during her second year, she folded her studies and moved to Seoul, Korea where she received her B.A. in International Studies at Korea University. Upon graduating, she also received her M.A. in International Areas Studies (North America) at Seoul National University (GSIS), where she also established the first U.S. Foreign Round Table at the university. Her experiences include working at Hanns Seidel Stiftung, The Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars (NKIDP), and the U.S. Embassy (Seoul), amongst others. She is interested in East Asian integration and security, U.S.- ROK relations, and soft power politics. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her friends and family, puppy included, playing tennis, cooking, and exploring new cultures.

Yuma Kuwata received his B.A. degree from Keio University, and his major was International Relations. His language background is Japanese. He has lived half of his life in New York and the other half in Japan. He was an exchange student to UC Santa Barbara during his undergraduate years, and focused his study on Environmental Studies there. His current research focus is Energy Security of the Asian region, focusing on the nuclear energy Issue. It will be centered around Japan, but it also reaches out to other Asian states using nuclear energy. His hobbies include watching football, Japanese subculture and relaxing.

Mary Lewine grew up in New York, went to Vassar, then spent two years in Taiwan as a Princeton in Asia fellow before returning to New York for a time. Then she left for Beijing to study Chinese at IUP. She looks forward to engaging with art and artists of the '85 New Wave movement and she likes what she likes.

Eli Magana's research interests include studying foreign relations between the U.S. and East Asia, and proliferation of advanced weaponry (i.e. WMDs) in East Asia.

Paul Martin is a former member of the British Museum's Japanese Department, where he cared for and studied the Japanese sword and armor collections. After leaving the museum, he lived in Japan for six years studying Japanese swords. In October 2006, he became the first non-Japanese to win a sword appraisal competition at the Sword Museum in Tokyo. He has appeared on BBC TV and Radio, The Discovery Channel, The History Channel, and Japanese television. In 2005, he curated an exhibition of modern Japanese swords at The Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena. Paul continues to provide translations for the Japanese Sword Museum in Tokyo, and the All Japan Swordsmiths' Association. His publications include Ono Yoshimitsu's World of Juka-Choji (translation for the Hayashibara Museum in Okayama), Facts and Fundamentals of Japanese Swords (co-author, published by Kodansha International), and a pocket guide on Japanese sword appraisal. He is a former member of the English International Karate Team and was English Champion in 1992,1993 and 1995. Paul currently practices Kendo (4th dan), Iaido (2nd Dan) and Iai-batto-jutsu.

Natalie Ornell received her Bachelor's degree in East Asian Studies and English at Wellesley College where she studied Mandarin Chinese. She has worked as a reporter on the News Desk at the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. In Boston she also worked as a News Correspondent for a bilingual immigrant newspaper, the Sampan, for three years. Her current research interests include contemporary Chinese politics, the Cultural Revolution, and education in China. Natalie also enjoys teaching and non-profit work in immigration advocacy and educational access.

Christopher Robertson. I grew up in California's Central Valley, and began attending Humboldt State University in 2005. In the fall of 2007 I went on exchange to Xi'an, China for language training, and while in Xi'an I did research on the local Hui community centered around Xi'an's Grand Mosque. I was also lucky enough to be in Beijing during the summer of 2008 to witness the excitement and pride surrounding the opening of the Olympics. I then returned to Humboldt, where I completed my BA in anthropology and international studies. Thereafter, I moved to Taipei to begin a year of language training at National Taiwan University, and stuck around Taiwan for an additional year teaching English. I've just returned Stateside to begin the program at Berkeley, where my interests include ethnic nationalism, political reform, the prospects for democracy, and international relations of China. On my free time, I'm probably sleeping past noon, drinking too much tea, and following an unhealthy amount of news and current events.

Mark Rutschman-Byler attended Deep Springs College in the mid-1990s and, after a fifteen-year foray into Zen temple training in the U.S. and Japan, returned in 2010 to the academic life to complete an interdisciplinary BA at the California Institute of Integral Studies. His emphasis is East Asian Buddhist Studies, with interests ranging across medieval Chinese Buddhism, especially Chan, Esotericism, and Huayan, and into various areas of Japanese Buddhism, including the Nara schools and 20th century Zen. He is an ordained Soto Zen priest and is married with a young child.

Grant Schechner graduated from Indiana University with majors in East Asian Languages and Cultures, History, and Anthropology. There he worked at the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology as an undergraduate research assistant and participated in a archaeological field school at Angel Mounds. He spent the last two years teaching English in Akita prefecture in Japan, where he became interested in the archaeology of Japan's Tohoku region. His studies at Berkeley will focus on Heian era archaeology in Japan. In his free time Grant enjoys going out and trying different microbrews.

Shaowen Song grew up in China; however, she began to learn about China in the U.S. In fall 2007 she came to UC Berkeley as a transfer student majoring in Asian-American Studies. At the time, she had a language partner, who was taking a Classical Chinese class in the East Asian Language and Culture (EALC) department. The textbook was A Classical Chinese Reader by A. D. Syrokomla-Stefanowska, and Shaowen had a surprise when she could not understand or even recognized any of the selections in the book. She tried to read the Classical Chinese facilitated by the English, and was attracted to every essay in the book. She decided to transfer to the department of EALC, and after two and a half years studying in the department, her desire to study about China, especially its early society, has become stronger. She wishes to explore early Chinese history with emphases on the schools, thoughts, women's lives, and contemporaries' interpretations about them.

Susan Su graduated from Lewis & Clark College with a B.A. in International Affairs. She also minored in Mandarin and participated in the CET Language Intensive program in Beijing. After finishing her undergraduate studies in May of 2011, she traveled to Xining, Qinghai Province with her professor to translate short stories and perform interviews. Her work and travels around Xining helped her discover her passion for translation, and she has come to Berkeley to pursue her interest in translating contemporary Chinese fiction. She also hopes to pick up some Amdo Tibetan and eventually return to Qinghai Province to conduct more research.

Hannah Thompson received her B.A. from Davidson College with a major in Classics. As an undergraduate, Hannah worked with art collections throughout the southeast and one summer participated in an archaeological dig in Athienou, Cyprus. After graduation, she moved to New York City, spent one year working in a contemporary Indian art gallery and four years working in the Asian Art Department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she became fascinated by Chinese art and culture. Outside of the office, Hannah studied Chinese language for two years at Columbia University before receiving a scholarship that took her to Taiwan for nine months of intensive language training. This was followed by a summer in Shanghai, where she studied early Chinese philosophy and twentieth century literature at Fudan University. While abroad, she traveled extensively in Asia, focusing on sites of historical importance to the foundations of Chinese civilization and Buddhism. Her present research interests include the social, ideological, and economic factors influencing changes to the types and ornament of luxury objects produced in mid- to late Bronze Age China. When not in the library, Hannah enjoys going to plays, dance performances and art exhibitions, exploring the national parks of northern California, and indulging in the culinary offerings of the Bay Area.

Ph.D. candidate

Sanggyoung Lee received her B.A and M.A in International Relations from Seoul National University in Korea. With her Masters thesis on Korean and Japanese film, her interests in literature and film are ongoing in her Asian Studies' Ph.D program as well. These days, she is devouring books related to Asian pre-modern paintings and new media art.