College of Arts and Humanities

Joseph Mai named chair of the Department of Languages


Professor Joseph Mai has been selected as the new chair of Clemson University’s Department of Languages. His term begins July 1, 2023.

Mai is a professor of French, with research interests in contemporary French and Francophone cinema, media studies, film philosophy and literature. In addition to articles on French cinema and literature, he has authored two books: “Robert Guédiguian” (Manchester University Press, 2017) and “Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne” (University of Illinois Press, 2010). He is also the co-editor of a book about the Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh: “Everything Has a Soul” (Rutgers University Press, 2021).

“Joe has done a great job as associate chair of Languages, and this has been an excellent preparation for taking on the responsibilities of department chair,” said Nicholas Vazsonyi, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities. “He also has the enthusiastic support of the faculty and staff.”

Mai holds a Ph.D., M. Phil. and M.A. in French Literature from Yale University, in addition to an M.A. in French from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a B.A. in French from Northern Illinois University. He began his career at Clemson in 2004 as an assistant professor of French. Prior to Clemson, he was a visiting assistant professor at Tulane University and a teaching fellow at Yale.

“A Languages department is premised on the idea that we live in a marvelously diverse world, and that we can get to know and appreciate this diversity best through an understanding of languages, cultures, creative and intellectual practices and social dynamics,” Mai said. “I look forward to leading a department that opens doors to the world in ways that enrich our individual, professional and collective lives.”

The Department of Languages provides courses in American Sign Language (ASL), Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish and Latin. In addition to meeting the general education needs of Clemson’s diverse student body, the department also offers undergraduate degrees in Modern Languages, Language and International Business, and Languages and International Health. Each degree program includes a required semester of study abroad.

“The variety of our programs empowers our students to have a positive impact on communities locally and around the globe,” Mai said. “It also enables faculty to conduct research that will contribute in many ways to academic and public debate.”

In 2022, the department began a partnership with the Department of Mechanical Engineering to create the Engineering + Languages program, beginning with the Mechanical Engineering + German concentration. The program ensures that Clemson students have the fluency in technical language to thrive in South Carolina’s largest international employers such as Dräxlmaier Automotive of America and BMW Manufacturing Co. The department has also begun a partnership with the College of Education that offers ASL, French, and Spanish students a double major in language teaching.

Mai succeeds Professor Salvador Oropesa, who has served as chair since 2014.

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