The M.A. degree in Southeast Asian studies is an interdisciplinary program designed to meet the unique needs of two broad groups of students: those seeking certification of area expertise en route to a disciplinary doctoral degree and those seeking a terminal M.A. en route to a wide range of careers in Southeast Asia, including employment in business, journalism, and various government and international organizations. The program requires two years of coursework (or the equivalent) in a Southeast Asian language and 30 graduate credits in Southeast Asian studies courses.

The Center for Southeast Asian Studies administers a formal graduate program in Southeast Asian studies and facilitates interdisciplinary study on Southeast Asia in intercollege, professional, and other degree programs throughout the university. The Southeast Asian studies program provides students with the opportunity to concentrate their study of this dynamic region in several disciplines and professional areas: anthropology, communications (journalism), development, education, economics, environmental studies, geography, history, linguistics, literature, music and dance (performing arts), political science, public health, religion, sociology, and urban and regional planning, as well as natural resources, business, and law, and public policy. Faculty expertise and library holdings are particularly strong for in-depth study of Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. The goal of the program is to provide students with a strong area and language background on Southeast Asia and to prepare them for a range of academic and professional careers.

Language study is a critical component in area studies, and the center encourages students to develop proficiency in at least one Southeast Asian language. During the academic year, instruction is offered through the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures in five Southeast Asian languages: Filipino (Tagalog), Hmong, Indonesian, Thai, and Vietnamese. Each language is offered at two or more levels of instruction, with advanced readings and literature courses available in Indonesian. The center also facilitates participation in the Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute (SEASSI), which provides instruction during the summers at multiple levels in eight languages of the region: Burmese, Filipino, Hmong, Indonesian/Malaysian, Javanese, Khmer, Lao, Thai, and Vietnamese, and depending on enrollments, Javanese. Though SEASSI is hosted by the center and based in Madison, it is open to students from anywhere. More information is available on the SEASSI website.


Interdisciplinary courses may be taken from many departments. Courses must contain a minimum of 25 percent Southeast Asia content to be counted for all the graduate programs. For a more complete and up-to-date listing of currently available courses, contact the Center for Southeast Asian Studies. Because the instructors and contents of many courses may change over time (especially for graduate level topics courses and seminars), students should consult the Center for Southeast Asian Studies for confirmation on whether a course may count for the M.A. degree, the graduate certificate, or the doctoral minor.

The center offers two graduate-level fellowships each year: Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships, funded by the U.S. Department of Education (Title VI); and Center Fellowships, funded by the center's Mellon endowment. Both fellowships provide full tuition and a monthly stipend and are awarded to deserving graduate students (in any discipline) with a strong commitment to the study of Southeast Asia. The center also provides Field Research Grants to be used to support doctoral dissertation and pre-dissertation research on Southeast Asia. Applicants for FLAS fellowships must be citizens or permanent residents of the U.S. and must apply to study one of the languages offered during the academic year: Filipino, Hmong, Indonesian, Thai, or Vietnamese. Center fellowships are generally awarded by semester and are open to all graduate students committed to the study of Southeast Asia. Field Research Grants can be awarded to graduate students in any field of study. Applications for FLAS, Center Fellowships, and Field Research Grants can be obtained directly from the center's office (or downloaded from the website) and must be submitted, along with all supporting materials, by the first week of February each year. The center also nominates eligible incoming graduate students in its M.A. program for two university-wide competitions: Advanced Opportunity Fellowships (for minority students) and University Fellowships (for students with outstanding academic records). In addition to these opportunities, other fellowships and financial assistance are available outside the center. For further information, incoming graduate students should write directly to the appropriate department and to the Office of Student Financial Aid. For additional information on the fellowships offered by the center, consult the center's website.

Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress

To make progress toward a graduate degree, students must meet the Graduate School Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress in addition to the requirements of the program.

Master’s Degrees


Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement

30 credits

Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement

16 credits

Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement

Half of the required credits (15 credits out of 30 total credits) must be in graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.

Prior Coursework Requirements: Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 9 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison Undergraduate

No credits from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the degree.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, student are allowed to count no more than 9 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken as a UW–Madison University Special student.

Credits per Term Allowed

15 credits

Program-Specific Courses Required

Contact the program for information on any additional required courses.

Overall Graduate GPA Requirement


Other Grade Requirements

The Graduate School requires an average grade of B or better in all coursework (300 or above, not including research credits) taken as a graduate student unless conditions for probationary status require higher grades. Grades of Incomplete are considered to be unsatisfactory if they are not removed during the next enrolled semester.

Probation Policy

The Graduate School regularly reviews the record of any student who earned grades of BC, C, D, F, or Incomplete in a graduate course (300 or above), or grade of U in research credits. This review could result in academic probation with a hold on future enrollment or in being suspended from the Graduate School.

Advisor / Committee

Every graduate student is required to have an advisor. To ensure that students are making satisfactory progress toward a degree, the Graduate School expects them to meet with their advisor on a regular basis.

An advisor generally serves as the thesis advisor. In many cases, an advisor is assigned to incoming students. Students can be suspended from the Graduate School if they do not have an advisor. An advisor is a faculty member, or sometimes a committee, from the major department responsible for providing advice regarding graduate studies.

A committee often accomplishes advising for the students in the early stages of their studies.

Assessment and Examinations

Contact the program for information on required assessments and examinations.

Time Constraints

Master’s degree students who have been absent for five or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence. Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.

Language Requirements

Contact the program for information on any language requirements.

Applicants for admission to the M.A. degree program in Southeast Asian Studies should submit the online application on the Graduate School website. The following materials are required and should be submitted to the center: statement of purpose, official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate study, three references, and Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores for U.S. citizens; most international students are also required to submit Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores (for recommended test scores, see the Graduate School website).

Knowledge and Skills

  • Demonstrate knowledge of one or more regions of Southeast Asia, focusing on a research question(s), problem or case study situated within a broader analytic framework and knowledge of the cultures, religions, history, anthropology, geography, economics, literature, and/or languages within scholarship on Southeast Asia.
  • Demonstrate proficiency in reading, speaking, and listening in one or more Southeast Asian languages, at least at the proficiency level of four semesters.
  • Analyze and synthesize information and ideas within the context of interdisciplinary Southeast Asian studies.
  • Understand, respond to, and construct arguments across disciplines relating to the study of Southeast Asia.
  • Apply their knowledge to solutions of intellectual as well as practical problems.

Professional Conduct

  • Recognize and apply principles of professional and ethical conduct.

Additional Learning Goals

  • Conduct academic research using an appropriate range of social scientific and/or humanistic sources, methodologies, and critical theories.
  • Communicate effectively in writing and orally.

Faculty: Professors Bowie (Anthropology), Cowell (African Languages & Literature), Coxhead (Agricultural & Applied Economics), Gade (Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies), Gunther (Journalism & Mass Communications), Hansen (center director) (History), Macken (Linguistics), A. McCoy (History), Olds (Geography), Rafferty (Asian Languages & Cultures), Sidel (Law), Winichakul (History), Zhou (Anthropology); Associate Professors Nobles (Sociology); Assistant Professors Baird (Geography), Choy (Dance/Asian American Studies), Ho (Curriculum and Instruction'/Education), Kim (Anthropology); Faculty Associates Barnard (Asian Languages & Cultures), Cullinane (History/Southeast Asian Studies), M. McCoy (Communication Arts/Southeast Asian Studies); Lecturers Chanprasert-Elbow (Asian Languages & Cultures), Dinh (Asian Languages & Cultures), Lee (Asian Languages & Cultures, Zamar (Asian Languages & Cultures); Librarian Ashmun (Southeast Asia Collection, Memorial Library)