SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — Wittenberg University faculty members continually seek innovative ways to prepare students for a rapidly changing world. Toward that end, six political science faculty members recently traveled to China to study the nation’s culture, economy and history in order to integrate their findings into the university’s renowned East Asian Studies program and across the curriculum.
The group traveled to Beijing, Xian, Hangzhou and Shanghai, China, through a Freeman Foundation grant, applied for by the political science department and written primarily by Associate Professor Bin Yu, according to Professor George Hudson, chair of the department and director of Russian studies. Hudson also credits Yu, a native of China and a China specialist, with the significant academic contacts the group made in their visits to Fudan University in Shanghai and Beijing University and with the American Studies Association of China.
“We enjoyed simply wonderful, continuous dialogue about Chinese politics, Chinese society and talked a lot about Chinese-American relations and many other issues as a result of Yu’s influence,” Hudson said.
With academics the primary focus, each faculty member on the trip came away with new and often surprising knowledge, Hudson said. In addition to Hudson and Yu, political science faculty members Professor Rob Baker, Associate Professor Staci Rhine, Instructor Heather Wright, and Instructor and Assistant Dean of Judicial Affairs John Young made the journey.
Areas of research and expertise of the faculty members include political philosophy and theory, public policy and law, East Asian political and security issues, civil society development, United States-China relations, comparative communism, civil military relations, the effect of the media on political knowledge and participation, racial and ethnic politics, the politics of urban economic development, legislative politics and political leadership.
“Our courses are all going to be affected in one way or another,” Hudson said. “I will never teach my introduction to comparative politics class the same again.”
He added that the same is true for the other educators on the trip. Many courses will be redesigned to reflect new knowledge of China and its people.
Wright, a political theorist, plans to include Eastern political thought in her coursework by integrating Confucius into her Ancient and Medieval Political Philosophy course and Mao into her Modern Political Thought course in the near future. She reports that she was perplexed by China’s growing capitalist economy in light of its communist ideological elements.
“When our group met with graduate students at both Fudan University and Beijing University, the students were quite excited by the economic development taking place and did not seem concerned about China’s ability to integrate capitalism successfully,” Wright said.
The faculty also began making plans for a yearlong colloquium series on China and East Asia for the 2006-2007 academic year.
“Our travels sensitized us to Chinese culture,” Hudson said. “The country is a driving economic force. Capitalism is alive and well and growing. Ads are everywhere. We could see it all around us.”
The group bonded during the trip, gaining new knowledge and life experiences. Hudson even provided an unexpected experience when he convened a department meeting on The Great Wall of China.
The trip attracted others who traveled at their own expense, including three professor emeriti of political science: Jeffrey Mao, a native of Shanghai, Richard Flickinger and William Buscemi. Anne Hudson, Patty Young, Marie Flickinger, Mona Mao, also a native of Beijing, University Physician Mary Jo Groves and Yu’s eight-year-old daughter, Sophia, also made the trip.
The Freeman Foundation is committed to increasing, strengthening and popularizing the teaching of Asia in college and university classrooms. Wittenberg’s East Asian Studies program received a $1.9 million grant from the foundation in January 2002 to ensure that all Wittenberg students, regardless of their course of study, have an encounter with Asia as part of their undergraduate experience.
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