Princeton University opened its first-ever Vietnamese course to students this semester with the help of Brown University.
The Daily Princetonian reported that a lecturer from Brown would be conducting the class in person. Students on campus will attend classes at East Pyne Hall and participate via Zoom.
However, extending the course to the spring semester would depend on student interest and other departmental factors. Department of East Asian Studies (EAS) Department Chair Anna Shields admitted that offering Vietnamese studies isn’t on the department’s agenda at the moment, noting logistical concerns and faculty discussions that have to take place before the course becomes a full program.
“Right now, our resources are very much dedicated to supporting our current languages, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean,” Shields said. “It’s very much a brand new venture, a work in progress, and we kind of want to see where it goes,” she added.
Associate Dean Rebekah Peeples remarked that students play a significant role in establishing a new language sequence, explaining that the American Sign Language course became a credit-bearing sequence at the request of students.
“The commitment amongst students to that sequence was really demonstrated over time and through expanded offerings that eventually made it clear that there was enough student interest to actually hire a lecturer for the purpose of continuing that instruction in a way that aligned with the university’s language requirement,” she said.
Cam My Nguyen, one of the two students participating in the new course, said that advocacy for a Vietnamese course began some time ago.
Nguyen told The Daily Princetonian that she reached out to Peeples, the Director of Studies, and Center for Language Study Coordinator Vandana Bajaj about the foreign language course but was rejected.
Several other students have voiced their desire to take Vietnamese studies. Nine of them received an email from the Princeton Center for Language Study (PCLS) following up on their request with a promise to “initiate some conversations with our partners within the University.”
The students’ efforts paid off when a PCLS program coordinator contacted Brown and shared the situation. Peeples said that “it just so happened that Brown had established this course sequence in Vietnamese and was able to offer some of our students an opportunity to join that class virtually.”