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CJRC Feature Story: Jesse Drian Joins the Trojan Family to Study Japanese Buddhism

New Graduate Student in EALC, Jesse Drian,
Joins the Trojan Family to Study Japanese Buddhism

By Xin Gu
Communications Management, USC Annenberg

CJRC student writer

Jesse Drian is a new student in the Ph.D. program in theDepartment of East Asian Languages and Cultures (EALC) at USC. Jesse is also a Graduate Student Affiliate of the USC Center for Japanese Religions and Culture (CJRC).


            Jesse was born and raised in Goshen, New York. He received his B.A. in East Asian Studies from Haverford College in 2009 with high honors, then continued his studies, receiving an M.A. in the Regional Studies: East Asia department at Harvard University in 2012. The more Jesse learned about East Asia, the more he became interested in medieval Buddhism and Japanese literature. To further his academic career, Jesse chose to pursue his doctorate degree at USC, beginning in the Fall of 2012. Currently, Jesse’s primary research area is concentrated on Buddhism, literature, and material/visual culture in premodern Japan, particularly through the lens of ritual and performance.

            Jesse Drian is excited about his student life and beginning his studies at USC. “USC is a large community. Students here are eager to share time with me,” said Jesse. “Other students in the program are doing all sorts of different things and they have lived all over the world. So, just by talking to people, you learn so much, like what they are studying and what are their experiences.”

            Despite the hassle of commuting in Los Angeles without a car, Jesse finds many resources at USC very helpful. “The libraries here are fantastic. I can always find what I need. In addition, libraries are expanding their electronic resources, which is very helpful. And the Center for Japanese Religions and Culture provides a lot of resources and brings in many people for talks, which is also a good opportunity to meet new people and share ideas with them.”  While Jesse received admissions offers from other excellent universities, such as Yale University, in the end, he decided that USC was the best fit for him. “USC seems like the perfect mix of people, resources and opportunities for (my) personal growth,” Jesse explained.

            In the coming years, Jesse’s goals are to achieve higher levels in his Japanese and Chinese language studies, and to continue improving his research skills. He is looking forward to learning more about Japanese Buddhism and literature, sharing ideas with other people, and gaining experience in teaching. “For the long-term, I hope to become a professor teaching Japanese religion and Japanese literature,” said Jesse.

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