To cater to its kaleidoscopic student population, Los Angeles City College this fall will become the first community college in the county to offer a major in Pacific Rim Studies.
The LACC program, an interdepartmental major that links courses in business and international trade with ones on the language and history of Asian and Latin American countries, is the first offering in a new School of International Trade at the college.
The school will award an associate of arts degree for those completing the required courses. In instituting the Pacific Rim Studies Program, LACC joins colleges and universities throughout the country that have put together similar programs in recent years.
The program will not include any new courses in its first semester, college President Stelle Feuers said. Rather, it will offer a coherent program of the same language and business courses that have been taught at the college for up to 20 years.
"We have all the components to put together what all of a sudden has become a trendy thing--Pacific Rim Studies," said Carmelita Thomas, professor of languages and humanities at the college.
Educators at the two-year college, in eastern Hollywood, said the new major is perfect for its diverse students, many of whom pursue careers in business. Of LACC's 14,000 students, almost half are Asian and Latino, and more than half go into business careers, Feuers said.
"Certainly, the emphasis on the Pacific Rim and international trade is coming into the forefront and will be a major force in the economy in the 2000s," Feuers said. "We're really tailoring it so students can pursue careers in international trade."
Feuers said the major will probably be expanded in coming years to include new courses, internships and exchange programs.
Students who enroll in the program next fall will be able to study subjects as diverse as Chinese civilization, banking and finance and Spanish literature.
Possible additions to the program include professional apprenticeships with companies in Japan, weekend-long seminars on various Asian cultures and business mores, and a course in professional translating, Feuers said.
The term Pacific Rim has become a catchword in recent years as nations that border the Pacific--primarily Asian--have expanded their economies and increased their role in worldwide trade.
That shift has altered the way American companies do business and changed what they seek in entry-level job applicants, educators say. Companies that once sought employees fluent in European languages are now hiring people with backgrounds in Asian languages and cultures, they said.
"People on both sides of the Pacific, on all edges of the Rim, have a growing sense that there are going to be opportunities and markets that are increasing, and they are looking for handles," said John Petersen, executive director of the accrediting commission for community and junior colleges of the Western Assn. of Schools and Colleges.
"They sense that there is a growing market, but they don't know exactly how to get started or how to carry out an interest in Latin America and Asia. That's one thing that community colleges can provide."
No figures are available on the number of colleges that have such programs, but state and national education officials said the push to study the Pacific Rim has been accelerating in recent years.
USC, UC San Diego and Stanford are among the universities in the state that have had interdisciplinary Pacific Rim studies programs for up to 10 years. Now smaller colleges are joining the trend.
The Pacific Rim program at LACC, modeled after established courses of study at other California schools, is designed to make Eastern attitudes more understandable to American-born students and to encourage Asian and Latino students to acquire the skills to make their fluency in English and another language marketable in the United States, educators said.