ASAP Communiqué

…for students in the IMAS and IDAS programs at NCCU.

Archive for the category “Admin Hurdles”

change of credit point requirement in IDAS

Did everyone get that email from Dr. Holm? It read, in part:

At its meeting tomorrow, the IDAS Executive Committee will be considering the possibility of lowering the total number of credit points IDAS students need for graduation. The current total is 33 points.
As you may be aware, NCCU is currently in the process of reforming its teaching and reducing teaching loads. The main focus is on undergraduate education, but the University is currently allowing MA and PhD programs also to reduce the number of required credit points. 
So, the question is, are you in favour of:
(1) the status quo (no change)
(2) a marginal reduction in total credit points required (say down to 30 or 27)
(3) a substantial reduction in total credit points (24 or lower)
Please post your opinions — and any news about this issue.

Future course for IDAS

I second the suggestion made by Janet in her recent email, and suggest we move the discussion to this board to minimize the flooding of people’s email addresses.

Janet wrote:

“We have some discussion on IDAS as an institution so that we have a true identity.”

For what it’s worth, I’d like to see if there’s interest in a student-led push to have IDAS and IMAS elevated to the status of a “Graduate Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies.”

Jasnea’s suggestions are also worth repeating here, that IDAS should have:

1. Committed and experienced professors teaching or working for IDAS on a FULL TIME basis.  We need at least three professors who have essential training and teaching experience in each of the IDAS tracks.
2. International liaisons with other departments for exchanges or collaborations for all interested students.
3. Application system based on an initial supervisory consultation. Students should not land up in the program, only to find that there is no one to supervise them in a substantial manner. This is be a good measurement for both prospective students and professors.
4. Projects and publications opportunities facilitated by the program and senior professors associated with IDAS. As such, I very much appreciate the SSCI workshops and writings sessions that Janet has arranged. Out next step would be to actually take good articles to journals or books in an institutionalized manner.
Please post in the “comments” section with your thoughts and opinions!

QE Reading Lists

Hi all. For those IDAS students who are writing the upcoming Qualifying Exam, and for those planning for a future round of exams, I thought it might be helpful to know what to expect. Especially in light of some of the comments, complaints, and expressions of outright terror I’ve heard regarding the recent extensive reading lists.

It is worth reminding the track coordinators that they have to limit their reading lists to a manageable level. In case you deleted my old Communiques (and who could blame you?!?) I am reprinting here the relevant decision from the minutes of the IDAS Executive Committee in the October 11, 2012, meeting. We agreed that the track-specific QE reading materials would be developed by January 1, 2013, according to the following format:
For internal professor:  (2/3) – two substantive questions and one method question  (5.5 hours)

a. max 5 books

b. max 15 articles

(may include readings pertaining to methods and the foundation courses)


For  external professor (1/3)  – one long question (about 2.5 hours)

a. max 3 books

b. max 7 articles
These are the rules, and to my knowledge, these rules have not been voted down, so I think it is only fair that the reading lists are designed accordingly, especially since these lists are only ever released a couple of months before the exams.

I hope this helps!

National Science Council funding

OK, if you are applying to an international conference somewhere outside of Taiwan (and you should, as it is a condition of our graduation in IDAS that we attend at least one international conference – besides which they are lots of fun), then you can get reimbursed for your travel and conference registration costs.

The first step is to create a profile with the NSC. It is easier said than done, as their website is designed with hurdles to prevent all but the most tenacious applicants from making it through to access conference-attending riches and fame.

To that end, here is a tutorial that Janet and I have put together to help you set up an account. NSC Tutorial

WordPress sucks…

… but it’s free.

I’ve spent the last few days (well, among other endeavors) trying to figure out the process for “Accepting an Invitation” to be an Editor on this blog. I had hoped to write a helpful tutorial. Instead, I’ve just gone a little more gray.

I have sent out the promised invitations to all of you, and had hoped to see more of them accepted. To those of you who managed to accept the invitations: congratulations, you are now members of Mensa. Under my own confluence of cookies, caches and other conditions, it seems impossible. I can only assume that my ISP is forever tarnished with a virtual scarlett letter signalling WordPress not to accept me, under the physics principle that two user accounts cannot occupy the same space at the same time.

To everyone else, I apologize profusely for the labryinthine process of joining this blog: I blame the ironically named “Happiness Engineers” for their sick sense of humour.

Fortunately, I have found this third-party tutorial on how to go about it:

Once you are logged in as an Editor, it should be straightforward to post anytime. If this doesn’t work, please leave a comment on this thread to let me know, and I’ll work harder to solve this little tech problem.

As always, if anyone has expertise in this area, and could help us all navigate these issues, I would love to hear from you.

English Corner

Here’s an update on our crusade to get the English Corner repurposed to a student lounge.

Long story short: it is my impression that I am being given the runaround. I may be wrong about that, however, so I will KBO.

In the previous IDAS committee meeting, I was asked to get buy-in from Dean Pai, the head honcho over at SAO, in addition to the IDAS and IMAS directors. I set up a meeting with him, and the results of that meeting were, basically:

1) They want to keep the conference table in the one-half of the room, as the “student ambassadors” have a meeting there every week or so. (I explained that the room is being used just like any other classroom, and that there are plenty of other classrooms, but they reckon they want to keep using at least that half of the room as just another classroom.)

2) They agreed in principle to a name-change of the conference-room half to “Conference Room” and the other half to “Student Lounge,”which would at least get rid of the insipid name “English Corner.”

3) They also agreed in principle to allow students to do a limited amount of decorating of the space, so long as it doesn’t  cost them anthing (no requisitioning foosball tables, dart boards or comfortable couches.)

OK, so, fast-forward to this Wednesday at the IDAS committee meeting: I gave this information to the administration, explaining that I had secured buy-in from the SAO head, and they declared that the next step in the process would be to

a) get buy-in from the SAO staff;

b) get buy-in from the students. All the students. Of NCCU.

c) submit a proposal for use of the room.

OK, so I know when I’m being set up on a wild goose chase, so this is how I interpret the situation:

They are adverse to change. They love their “English Corner,” and don’t want to let it go, and are wasting my time sending me out to chase my tail in order to get approval for what, at this stage, is little more than a name change.

We therefore have 2 choices: continue this course, or seek an alternate space for a student lounge.

If you want me to continue hunting the white whale, then we may end up with a student lounge which is:

a) half the space of the English Corner;

b) will have to be shared with a conference/classroom (so no music or loud noises, please)

c) any further changes (i.e. can we add a cappucino machine?) would necessitate a repitition of this Kafkaesqu oddyssey of acheiving buy-in from various department heads, thousands of students and the stray dogs on campus; and

d) worst of all, once we obtain this pitiful space with restricted use, they will consider that they have done us a token favour and will have no motivation to approve a bigger, better space (if such is possible) for a student lounge in the future.

The second choice is to find an alternate space for an alternate IMAS/IDAS student lounge. It won’t be on our floor, and maybe not even in our building, an may not even be possible at all.

Personally, I’d rather pursue the second option. I’d like to see a decent place for us to congregate, hang out, read, socialize, and most importantly, feel comfortable. Without Hello-Kittyesque decorations.

Please let me know your thoughts on this: If you agree, then my plan is to:

Compose and submit a proposal to the effect that the “English Corner” be moved to another floor and that that space (rooms 271202 and 271203) be given over exclusively to the IDAS and IMAS departments to administer as a “Student Lounge” completely independently.

If this proposal is accepted: great. If not, no compromises: we leave the “English Corner” as-is, and then start looking somewhere else for a decent space we can actually use.


New Quals System

OK, here’s the scoop with the qualifying exam.

As of Wednesday’s meeting, there is only one (1) qualifying exam required. It is:

a) Track based. No more “one regionalism qual, one qual tailored to the student.” For us, since we are not obliged to declare a track, we can write the qual for the track that is closest to our area of study.

b) Weighted to the internal professor. No more 50/50. In the new system, the internal professor will contribute 2/3 of the questions and the external professor 1/3.

c) Include a methodology question. This is what will take the administration time to set up. The exams will include one question out of 3 or 4 that will encompass the methodology specific to the track.

d) Limited Readings. The reading list will be limited to 5 books and 15 articles from the internal professor, and proportionally fewer for the external.

As before, we still have to pass the qualifying exam prior to sitting a proposal defense, but we can schedule that defense right after the qual (a week or a month).

Students looking at writing the exam in 2012 can choose to go with the old system or wait to use new system in early 2013. If we choose the old system, it is as before. The disadvantages (as I see them) are: 2 quals, 50/50 internal/external, the insane number of repetitive readings, and the regionalism focus (a disadvantage unless you are an IR guy). The advantages are that we can write the 2 exams right away (May 7, and/or the session in September) and not have to wait until spring 2013.

Everybody’s situation is different, so think about what works best for you. For me, I would rather wait a year for them to get the new exam system up and running (and work on my dissertation research in the meantime) rather than waste my time with prepping for one exam now and another in September. If you decide to do likewise, you have to personally let Angel know prior to April 7. That’s next week.

Also, and keep in mind this is not certain, but if we can convince them to hold September’s qual in December, then they might have the new system ready to go by then. If so, we can write the new one in December 2012 rather than March or May 2013. Again, this is not a certainty.

On that note, nothing really is a certainty … The exam as it will be conducted in spring 2013 will be somewhat experimental — the students taking it (myself included) will not yet be the cohort of track-declared students, and so may not have done all of the track work (required courses, methods courses, etc, thought we can audit these classes.)

That’s about all the info there is on this so far … I hope it helps with your decisionmaking!

English Corner

I am setting up a meeting with the dean of the SAO, Dr. Pai, who is basically in charge of the space, to propose we change the usage (and most importantly, the name) of the “English Corner” to the “Students Lounge”. What can we do to make it a better space? Please leave comments and give me your ideas.

So far, I’ve put this together:

Object: proposal to rename the “English Corner” to “Post-graduate Student Lounge”


Room 2712XX, designated the “English Corner,” is currently underused. We propose to make better, more efficient use of the space by designating it a post-graduate student lounge.

Current problems

There are three groups for whom this space on 12th floor of the Social Science building’s north tower is allotted: IDAS, IMAS and SAO (all post-graduate students).

There are several easily-remedied problems with the room that are currently acting as a disincentive for students to use it.

The name

The name “English Corner” gives the impression that it is a designated space solely for language learning, and so students who would otherwise want to use it for quiet study, rather than talk, are hesitant to do so.

Taiwanese students may feel that they are unable to use the room for meetings conducted in Chinese, as the name implies that it is a space in which only English may be used. (This is not unusual: many language classes and buxibans previously attended by our students have this strict policy, as it creates an immersive atmosphere.)

Moreover, to foreign students, the name implies that if they venture into the room, they will be asked to provide an impromptu English lesson, making this the last place to study quietly. Thus, they avoid it.

Current decorations

The room is not inviting. In fact, it is extremely uncomfortable. This is mostly due to the decorations, which are more appropriate to a kindergarten or Buxiban. Post-grad students do difficult work: they want to feel as though they are adults and have serious matters with which to deal, and this room does not provide the appropriate atmosphere in which to do so.

No Disruption of Current Use

Current use of the room by post-graduate students is minimal for the above reasons, and is restricted to informal meetings and the occasional group reservation. The proposed changes would cause no disruption of these current uses, and will in fact enhance them.

Proposed Change

With a simple name change and the removal of the conference table, this space can be used much more efficiently and will become central focal point for all the students of the 12th floor. This is important, because this was the room’s original intended purpose. Combine the concept of lounge into a space where students can come and practice English with post-graduate foreign students if they so desire, while fostering academic exchange in an environment that is relaxing for both body and mind.

At no cost to the college, and on their own initiative, students can use the existing bookshelf in this room (which currently contains nothing of interest or value) as a reference library, holding books from upper classmen that can be of value to their freshman classmates. Students could, on their own initiative, also be responsible for decorating the room with academic posters and the like, creating a more academic environment that is at once welcoming, relaxing and collegial.

In short, these minimal changes which would cost the university nothing would greatly enhance the lives and enjoyment of the students currently learning and doing research on the 12th floor.

Thank you for your kind consideration of this request.

Qualification Exams

As you know, the IDAS committee meeting is coming up and we will tackle the difficult issue of Quals – are they too long? Should they be more standardized? I need to know how the student body feels before I go into that meeting, so please post your comments below. And thanks in advance for taking the time!

Library holdings

If you want the NCCU library to add a book to its holdings, login to the system and file a request here:

(Warning: it’s in Chinese.)

This actually might come in handy. The last time I was in the library, I couldn’t find a single Batman comic. Not one!


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