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The CAPS Major

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Overview

CAPS majors are required to complete four years of college-level Chinese language courses and aim to achieve high-advanced Chinese proficiency upon graduation. The CAPS major gives students experience both on- and off-campus, including three years in Ithaca, one semester in Washington, D.C, and one semester in Beijing.

In Ithaca, CAPS majors study China’s history, politics, economy, society, and foreign relations (especially with the United States), and they take Chinese language courses in the regular curriculum.

In Washington, D.C., CAPS majors are in residence at Cornell in Washington (whose building near Dupont Circle is belongs to Cornell); their core courses are a seminar on U.S.-China relations and a seminar on American public policy (or alternately, a seminar on American experience). In the U.S.-China seminar, students meet with key figures and discuss issues of diplomacy, business, law, journalism, education, and other fields. 

In Beijing, CAPS majors live on the campus of China’s preeminent institution of higher learning, Peking University, and take two CAPS seminars: 4001 with an English speaking visiting U.S. professor; and CAPS 4002, a course taught partly in Chinese and partly in English by a Peking University professor. 

In both Washington, D.C., and Beijing, CAPS majors hold China-related internships in government agencies, embassies, newspapers, television networks, businesses, law firms, NGOs, and other organizations. 

Back in Ithaca for their final semester, CAPS majors bring their studies to a culmination in a senior seminar (CAPS 4030), and, ideally, an honors thesis (CAPS 4010 and 4020). 

Course Requirements

There are no prerequisites to the major. Upon enrolled in the program, CAPS majors must complete SIX required CAPS courses and TWO elective CAPS courses (totally 34-36 credits) with a grade average of C or better.

One CAPS gateway course. CAPS majors must take any one of the following courses (taught in Ithaca) normally during the first two years.

  • CAPS 3049 China's Next Economy (also GOVT 3044);
  • CAPS 3403 China under Revolution and Reform (also GOVT 3403)
  • CAPS 3827 China and the World (also GOVT 3827)
  • CAPS 3907 Crises in Asia (also GOVT 3907)

Five other required courses. CAPS majors must complete all the following required courses:

  • CAPS 3000 Seminar in American Relations with China (taught at Cornell in Washington);
  • CAPS 4998 Politics and Policy: Theory, Research, and Practice (also GOVT 4998), or alternately, CAPS 4997 Research Seminar in American Studies (also AMST 4997) (taught at Cornell in Washington);
  • CAPS 4001 China in Transition (taught at Peking University);
  • CAPS 4002 Chinese Perspectives on International and Global Affairs (taught at Peking University);
  • CAPS 4030 Issues in China and Asia-Pacific Studies (offered during the spring semester of the senior year in Ithaca).

For students opting out of the D.C. semester, they will be required to take the following courses offered in Ithaca as replacement:

  • Two 4000-level seminars (in any department or college) that has a China focus (subject of approval by the CAPS Assistant Director) (Ithaca)
  • CAPS 3502 Becoming China Hands (Ithaca)

Two CAPS elective courses. CAPS majors may choose any two of the following courses to fulfill the CAPS elective requirement:

  • CAPS 1740 Imperial China (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 1910 Introduction to Modern Asian History (crosslisted);
  • CAPS 2210 Pop Culture in China (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 2212 Introduction to China (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 2262 Medicine & Healing in China (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 2264 Contemporary Chinese Popular Culture (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 2267 Women & Society in China (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 2271 China's Literary Heritage (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 2281 Antiquity and Modernity in Contemporary China (crosslisted); 
  • CAPS 2840 Capitalism in China (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 2940 History of China in Modern Times (also HIST 2940);
  • CAPS 3303 Modern Chinese Literature in Translation (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 3307 Readings in Classical Chinese Literature (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 3329 Literature of Chinese Exile (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 3337 Love Stories of Early Modern China  (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 3340 Contested Legacies of China's Past (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 3370 Nature Imagined and Experienced: Ancient Chinese Travel Literature (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 3380 China's Economy Under Mao & Deng (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 3434 Chinese Empire and the Cambodian Experience (crosslisted) 
  • CAPS 3502 Becoming a China Hand (crosslisted) 
  • CAPS 3520 Twentieth-Century Asian-American Relations (also HIST 3520);
  • CAPS 3857 Seminar on American Foreign Policy (also GOVT 3857);
  • CAPS 3967 What is China? (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 4070 Normative Issues in International Relations (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 4355 Work and Labor in China (also ILRIC 4355);
  • CAPS 4364 Seminar on Chinese Institutions and the Environment (also GOVT 4364);
  • CAPS 4414 Politics, Violence and the Study of Cambodia (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 4420 Tang Poetry: Themes and Contexts (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 4827 Unifying while Integrating: China in the World (also GOVT 4827);
  • CAPS 4870 China and Asian Security (also GOVT 4877/6877);
  • CAPS 4930 Problems in Modern Chinese History (also HIST 4930);
  • CAPS 4931 Vitality and Power in China (also HIST 4931)
  • CAPS 4963 China's Early Modern (crosslisted)

Students may choose other CAPS-related courses to fulfill the CAPS elective requirement upon permission of the program director. Taking additional CAPS gateway courses counts toward fulfillment of the CAPS elective requirement. 

Chinese Language Requirements

CAPS majors are required to complete four years of college-level Chinese language courses (CHIN 1000 level through 4000 level) and acquire the high advanced (CHIN 4400 level) Chinese proficiency or higher upon graduation. They are expected to maintain a minimum grade of B+ in their Chinese language courses; failure to maintain this expectation may result in dismissal from the major. 

Native speakers holding regular high school diplomas from Chinese mainland or Taiwan (i.e., not international schools) may be exempted from the CAPS Chinese language requirement, per the discretion of Cornell's Chinese language faculty and the approval of CAPS director. Alternatively, students may be exempted through placement testing, at the discretion of Cornell Chinese language faculty and the approval of CAPS director.

Click here to see the explanations about the CAPS Chinese language course sequencing in details.

 

Internships

Click here for more information on the CAPS internship requirements.

Application Procedures

Any Cornell College of Arts and Sciences student wishing to become a CAPS major must officially apply to the program. Entrance is limited to twenty students per class-year. So students are encouraged to sign into the major early upon their admission to the College of Arts and Sciences. Students who are interested in the CAPS major should

  • Consult with CAPS Assistant Director, Ms. Haiyan Wang. She can be reached at 607-254-5336 or by email at hw365@cornell.edu.
  • Fill out the application package, which is available to donwload here, or from the CAPS Office at B7, McGraw Hall.
  • Obtain an official transcript from the University Registrar’s office.
  • Return the application package, together with the official transcript to either Haiyan Wang or to Sarah Rice in B7 McGraw Hall.
  • Declare the major at anytime—even before completing any CAPS course—yet not later than February of sophomore year in order to be admitted to Cornell in Washington for the fall of junior year; when more than 20 students are likely to declare the major, a selection committee will screen the applications and only 20 will be admitted to the major.

Honors

Honors in CAPS are awarded for excellence in the major. Honors candidates must complete CAPS 4010 and CAPS 4020 (in the senior year), and write an honors thesis. (CAPS 4010 and CAPS 4020 may be used to fulfill the requirement for one CAPS elective course.)

Prerequisites and Application

Honors applicants must have at least an overall GPA of B+ (3.3), and a major GPA of A- (3.7). Applicants, in consultation with the CAPS Director, must select an honors thesis advisor from the CAPS faculty, and discuss with that faculty member plans for the honors thesis. Applicants must then submit an application form (available as an attachment on this webpage, or at the CAPS office), to the CAPS Office in B7 McGraw Hall. The application must include a description of the proposed research project for the honors thesis, and the endorsement from the applicant’s thesis advisor stating that she or he will advise the applicant’s honors thesis. 

Click here to download the Honors Application.

Honors Committee

The Honors Committee consists of a thesis advisor, and one other member of the CAPS faculty (selected by the candidate in consultation with the thesis advisor). The Honors Committee must be organized and reported to the CAPS Director before the honors candidate’s semester in China (fall of the senior year).

The application must be successfully submitted and the Honors Committee formed by the end of applicant’s junior year in order for the student to be an honors candidate.

Honors Thesis Coursework

During the senior year, each honors candidate will enroll in the year-long tutorial (CAPS 4010 and CAPS 4020) with her or his thesis advisor. 

During the first semester (CAPS 4010 Honors Thesis Research), the candidate is expected to finalize the focus of her or his honors thesis, conduct required research and reading, and submit work to the thesis advisor to gauge satisfactory progress. The work submitted in consultation with the thesis advisor may include: draft portions of the thesis (perhaps a first chapter or an introduction), an extended thesis outline, a relevant course paper, or other approved work. All of the work is graded. If the advisor does not judge the honors thesis to be viable at this point, the candidate will not be allowed to enroll in CAPS 4020 Honors Thesis Writing. Continuation of the honors program into CAPS 4020 is not automatic.

Thesis

The text of the honors thesis may not exceed 60 pages except by permission of the Honors Committee. Three copies of the honors thesis are due in the CAPS Office (B7 McGraw Hall) by the conclusion of the business day on the Friday of the thirteenth week of classes in the spring semester (usually mid-April; or the candidate's final semester). Two copies are for the Honors Committee, and one copy is for the CAPS Director (and subsequently retained on file by the Program). 

Defense and Honors Award

An oral defense conducted by the Honors Committee is required for honors in CAPS. The defense must take place by early-May (usually exam week of the final semester), or sooner. The thesis advisor assigns a grade for the honors work, and submits both the grade and the Honor Committee’s written decision concerning the level of honors to the CAPS Director. In the unlikely case that the Committee cannot come to a decision on a candidate’s work, the CAPS Director may seek to review the honors recommendation with the CAPS Advisory Committee.

The final level of honors awarded to a candidate is determined by the CAPS Director on the basis of the evaluation made by the Honors Committee, and the student’s grade record in the major. If the candidate’s GPA as a senior falls below honors requirements, the CAPS Director may seek a review of the honors level.

Students are awarded one of four designations: (1) no honors, (2) honors (cum laude), (3) high honors (magna cum laude), and (4) highest honors (summa cum laude).