Row of golden Buddha statues

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 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.

Please consult the table below for key information about this degree program’s admissions requirements. The program may have more detailed admissions requirements, which can be found below the table or on the program’s website.

Graduate admissions is a two-step process between academic programs and the Graduate School. Applicants must meet the minimum requirements of the Graduate School as well as the program(s). Once you have researched the graduate program(s) you are interested in, apply online.

Fall Deadline July 15
Spring Deadline November 15
Summer Deadline April 15
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Not required
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

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).

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Program Resources

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 Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements


Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions

Accelerated: Accelerated programs are offered at a fast pace that condenses the time to completion. Students typically take enough credits aimed at completing the program in a year or two.

Evening/Weekend: ​Courses meet on the UW–Madison campus only in evenings and/or on weekends to accommodate typical business schedules.  Students have the advantages of face-to-face courses with the flexibility to keep work and other life commitments.

Face-to-Face: Courses typically meet during weekdays on the UW-Madison Campus.

Hybrid: These programs combine face-to-face and online learning formats.  Contact the program for more specific information.

Online: These programs are offered 100% online.  Some programs may require an on-campus orientation or residency experience, but the courses will be facilitated in an online format.


Minimum Credit Requirement 30 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 16 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement All 30 credits must be taken in graduate-level coursework. Details can be found in the Graduate School’s Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) policy (
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
This program follows the Graduate School's policy:
Other Grade Requirements n/a
Assessments and Examinations To complete the MA program, students must write a research paper on Southeast Asia under the supervision of their faculty advisor; this paper must then be defended before three faculty members affiliated with the Center (their advisor and two others selected in consultation with their advisor).
Language Requirements Students must demonstrate a level of proficiency in a Southeast Asian language equivalent to having successfully completed four semesters of the language; these credits do not count toward the 30 credits required for the program. Up to nine credits of advanced language courses can be counted toward the 30 credit degree requirement.

Required COURSES

Graduate students will receive the M.A. by

  1. demonstrating a level of proficiency in a Southeast Asian language equivalent to having successfully completed four semesters of that language.
  2. completing thirty credits of area-content coursework (with six of these being graduate seminars)– twelve in one field of concentration (that is in one department, in two or more related departments, or in an interdisciplinary field approved by the faculty advisor) and eighteen in one or more other fields.
  3. perform satisfactorily in an oral examination focused on the candidate’s knowledge of Southeast Asia as demonstrated by a research paper approved by the faculty advisor.


Interdisciplinary courses may be taken from many departments. To complete the MA Program in Southeast Asian Studies, the student must complete 30 credits of coursework (generally 10 courses); 6 of these credits (or two courses) must be graduate seminars. The 30 required courses should be taken in two broad areas: 12 credits (generally four courses) must focus on a single discipline or be connected by a specific theme; the remaining 18 credits (generally six courses), as electives, can be taken in any discipline. Up to 6 credits of Advanced Language (ASIALANG courses) may count towards the 30 credits. All courses counted for the degree program must have at least 30% Southeast Asian content, demonstrated by lectures and readings, and/or by relevant writing assignments or a research paper. For a more complete and up-to-date listing of currently available courses, contact the Center for Southeast Asian Studies. Because the instructors and content 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. 

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

MaJor-Specific Policies

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

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

UW–Madison Undergraduate

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

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.


This program follows the Graduate School's Probation policy.


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.

As a multidisciplinary program, the student will not be assigned a faculty advisor until they have decided on the disciplinary approach for their research paper. Until that time, the Graduate Program Advisor (Michael Cullinane) will serve as the student's advisor in completing the program requirements and will assist in the selection of a faculty advisor.


15 credits

Time limits

This program follows the Graduate School's Time Limits policy.

grievances and appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

Students should contact the department chair or program director with questions about grievances. They may also contact the L&S Academic Divisional Associate Deans, the L&S Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning Administration, or the L&S Director of Human Resources.



Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

  1. 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.
  2. Demonstrate proficiency in reading, speaking, and listening in one or more Southeast Asian languages, at least at the proficiency level of four semesters.
  3. Analyze and synthesize information and ideas within the context of interdisciplinary Southeast Asian studies.
  4. Understand, respond to, and construct arguments across disciplines relating to the study of Southeast Asia.
  5. Apply their knowledge to solutions of intellectual as well as practical problems.
  6. Recognize and apply principles of professional and ethical conduct.
  7. Conduct academic research using an appropriate range of social scientific and/or humanistic sources, methodologies, and critical theories.
  8. Communicate effectively in writing and orally.

Faculty: Professors Bowie (Anthropology), Gade (Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies), Hansen (History), A. McCoy (History), Olds (Geography), Sidel (Law); Associate Professors Baird (Geography, Director), Choy (Dance/Asian American Studies), Haberkorn (Asian Languages and Cultures), Ho (Curriculum and Instruction/Education), Kim (Anthropology), Nobles (Sociology); Assistant Professor Kusumaryati (Anthropology/International Studies); Faculty Associates Barnard (Asian Languages & Cultures), Cullinane (History/Southeast Asian Studies), M. McCoy (Communication Arts/Southeast Asian Studies); Lecturers Dinh (Asian Languages & Cultures), Lee (Asian Languages & Cultures), Nicolas (Asian Languages and Cultures), Surasin (Asian Languages and Cultures), Suryani (Asian Languages and Cultures); Librarian Ashmun (Southeast Asia Collection, Memorial Library)