Asian Studies certificate

Students participating in KCAI’s Asian Studies certificate program study the language, art, aesthetics and creative activities of China and Japan.

Students pursue an intensive study of East Asia through designated courses in language, art history, literature, history and philosophy, along with a studio component.

Fifteen credit hours are required to attain the certificate. In addition, students completing the program write a 1,000-word “reflection paper” and give a short presentation in which they discuss their experiences and communicate ideas that indicate a more comprehensive understanding of the nature of Asian studies. 

To request a brochure with additional information about the program, contact


Jan Kennedy, Ph.D., assistant professor

Jan Kennedy is a graduate of the University of Kansas, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in
the history of art and English literature, a master’s degree in the history of art and a Ph.D. degree. Her doctoral work focused on 17th Century Dutch and Flemish paintings and prints, with interest also in Venetian Cinquecento painting and Japanese painting of the Edo period. Her dissertation was “Images of the Soldier in 17th Century Dutch Art.”
At KCAI, she has taught a wide range of classes, including “Asian Art Survey,” “Japanese Art Survey,” “Japanese Prints,” “Spiritual Landscapes in Art,” “Baroque Art,” “Impressionism and Post-Impressionism,” “Abstract Expressionism,” “Art of Venice” and “Art of Zen.”
Her numerous awards and fellowships include the Friends of the Mauritshuis Fellowship associated with the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in The Hague, which allowed her to conduct research in the Netherlands. In 1997, she contributed writings for “Dutch Art: An Encyclopedia,” edited by Sheila D. Muller and published by Garland Publishing. More recently, she was a keynote speaker presenting her current area of research on the Christian art of Japan.
She is a member of the College Art Association, the Historians of Netherlandish Art and the Association for Asian Studies.
Hal Wert, Ph.D. professor
Hal Wert holds a bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies with a certificate in Chinese Studies from the University of Iowa and a master’s degree in American diplomatic history from the University of Kansas, where he minored in Japanese history. He earned a Ph.D. from KU in American diplomatic history, and two of his five field exams for the degree were in Japanese history and Japanese literature.
At KCAI he has taught Traditional Japanese History, Modern Japanese History and the Modern Japanese Novel, as well as courses on The Tale of Genji and Classical Chinese Philosophy. While serving in the U.S. Army, he was stationed on Okinawa for two years. He has lectured at the University of Hong Kong and led student trips to Vietnam and Cambodia to teach the history of the Vietnam War in the field.
Wert has authored many scholarly articles and several books, including “Hope: A Collection of Obama Posters and Prints” and “Hoover the Fishing President: Portrait of the Private Man and His Life Outdoors.” In 1999, Professor Wert was awarded the KCAI Excellence in Teaching Award, and in December 2000 he received the Missouri Governor's Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Tracie Whiting Kipper, lecturer

An alumna and former coordinator of the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme, Tracie Whiting Kipper formerly served as an economic analyst with the Consulate General of Japan in Kansas City. She has taught Japanese through the Communiversity program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She has lived in Japan, offers Japanese-English translation services and provides her students with insights into Japanese customs and culture as well as instruction in Japanese language.  


Japanese Language and Culture I and II
Chinese Language and Culture I
Survey of Asian Art
Survey of Chinese Art
Survey of Japanese Art
Liberal arts electives:
  • Survey of Asian Ceramics
  • Japanese Prints
  • The Art of Zen
  • Meeting Points of Asian and Euro-American Art
  • Modern Japanese Film
  • History of China I and II
  • History of Japan I and II
  • Contemporary Chinese Fiction
  • The Japanese Novel
  • Eastern Philosophy and Religion
Studio electives:
  • Printmaking: Investigating traditional japanese printmaking using wood
  • Fiber: Asian textiles, including resist dyeing techniques of Shibori
  • Sculpture: Asian focus
  • Animation: Components of Asian animation


Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Located just east of the KCAI campus is the world-renowned Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which began collecting Asian art even before the museum opened in 1933. Recognized internationally as one of the finest general art museums in the United States, the Nelson-Atkins currently maintains collections of more than 33,500 works of art. The museum is a frequent destination for KCAI students and faculty.
As early as 1930, the focus of the museum was to build a collection that would represent China’s highest artistic achievements in every medium and from every historical period. As a result, the Chinese collection is one of the finest in the world. With more than 7,500 works of high quality, the Chinese collection comprises masterpieces from every historical stage and in every medium of China’s artistic activity – from Neolithic times to the 20th century.
All of the works (above) are from the collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Images courtesy of the museum.
The museum’s Japanese collection contains more than 2,000 works of art, ranging from the 10th century B.C.E. to the early 20th century. The strength of the collection lies in the number and quality of its folding paper screens, an art form that is a unique contribution of Japan. Paramount among the screens is the sublime pair “Pine and Plum by Moonlight,” by Kaihō Yūshō of the Momoyama period. An impressive array of ceramics is dominated by the spectacular 16th-century Echizen “Water Jar,” whose monumentality is complemented by the boldness of its glazes. The few pieces of Japanese sculpture in the collection feature Buddhist images in wood primarily from the 9th and 10th centuries.In addition, a portfolio of more than 500 color woodblock prints of the Edo period contains examples of all the famous masters of the ukiyo-e school. Finally, there are an assortment of armor and blade weapons, a sampling of textiles and several superlative pieces of lacquerware.
Heart of America Japan-America Society
Serving the states of Missouri and Kansas, the Heart of America Japan-America Society furthers understanding between the peoples of Japan and Greater Kansas City by promoting social, cultural and educational exchanges. Monthly meetings are held at the Loose Park Garden Center and feature presentations that range from lectures to hands-on activities and pot-luck suppers. Since 1974 the organization has engaged in a “sister city” program with Kurashiki, Japan and has hosted Japanese high school and college students during summer visits to Kansas City. In addition, the organization has helped to sponsor area high school and first-year college students in summer home-stay visits in Kurashiki as student ambassadors. The society participates in two major cultural festivals each year: the city-wide Ethnic Festival in late summer and the Japan Festival in the fall. In addition, the society traditionally hosts a year-end or New Year dinner dance called the “Shinnenkai.”
Confucius Institute
The Confucius Institute at the University of Kansas is a cooperative project of the University of Kansas, the Office of Chinese Language Council International of the Chinese Ministry of Education and Huazhong Normal University. Established in 2006, the organization is part of an international network of Confucius Institutes dedicated to “enhancing the understanding of the Chinese language and culture” around the world. Drawing on the extensive resources for the study of China at the KU, the Confucius Institute serves the bi-state area with high-quality public programming, including film festivals, lectures, workshops in topics such as Chinese calligraphy and an annual celebration of the Chinese New Year. Events are held on the KU campus in Lawrence or at the Edwards Campus in Overland Park, Kan., a suburb of Kansas City, Mo.

Travel opportunities

Winter “intersession” travel opportunities vary from year to year, providing students with options for foreign travel between the close of the fall semester, which typically ends in mid-December, and the start of the spring semester, which typically begins the fourth week in January. Often these opportunities include KCAI-sponsored trips to Asia, including expeditions to Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand) led by history professor Hal Wert, Ph.D., who teaches several of the courses offered within the Asian Studies Certificate Program. 

A student's perspective

 One of two “inaugural” graduates of the Asian Studies Certificate program, Zach Rensberger earned a B.F.A. degree in digital filmmaking from KCAI in 2010. Originally from Moline, Ill., he is pursuing a career in cinematography while traveling in Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia.
Recently he shared his thoughts about the Asian Studies program at KCAI: 
  • "The classes I took helped me tremendously because my filmmaking work is very East-Asian inspired, and learning about the culture and people helped me better understand their voice in their artwork (specifically film). I am definitely going to continue investigating the influence of their filmmaking in what I try to communicate with my work."
  • "I am glad to have the certificate because someday I would love to teach about Asian art or Asian filmmaking, and having the certificate could help me do that."
  • "Take advantage of the great professors like Jan Kennedy and Tracie Whiting-Kipper because they are so passionate and enthusiastic and knowledgeable."

Asian Studies Brochure

A brochure about the Asian Studies program is available from the admissions office. View it here (PDF).