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Earlham faculty visited the Famen temple in Xi'an, a cultural scenic area in Famen town, as part of a faculty development program. Below, Earlham students pose at the Kunming Stone Forest.

Grant will expand Chinese language studies, cultural exploration at Earlham

November 02, 2015

A $500,000 grant awarded to Earlham College from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will enhance the College’s Chinese Studies program and strengthen its ties with the world’s most populous country.

The bulk of the grant will support Chinese language study through 2019 while also funding a second faculty development program to China in 2017 that will infuse new teaching and learning across the curriculum.

Kunming Stone Forest“Currently we have beginning and intermediate levels offered every year, and for the first time, we now have CHIN 301, to prepare students’ proficiency of the language at the advanced level,” says Susan Chen, visiting assistant professor of Chinese.

In 2008, Professor of Philosophy and Dean of Integrated Learning Marya Bower, who has played a leading role in the development of Earlham’s Chinese Studies program, completed a three-week program sponsored by the Asian Studies Development Program at the East-West Center in Hawaii that was aimed at preparing faculty to infuse teaching about Japan and China into the undergraduate curriculum.

“I discovered I was fascinated by China,” Bower says. “There were so many interesting things about China that captured my imagination. My own curiosity about the land and people and cultures began to grow.”

Bower spoke to Academic Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs Greg Mahler about her increasing interest in China. Mahler already had met and had continued conversations with Gerry ’66 and Gloria ’62 Cooper, who were interested in supporting Chinese Studies at Earlham.

“Marya’s experience in Hawaii came at a perfect time for the development of Chinese Studies on campus,” Mahler says.

Initial efforts to establish the program began in 2008 when the Coopers provided funding for a faculty development trip to China. The faculty chosen to participate included teachers from departments and programs across the college.  They visited Beijing, Xi’an, Yunnan Province, Hangzhou, Nanjing, and Shanghai during the summer of 2010.

In 2011, Gerry Cooper provided additional funding for scholarships to enable students and faculty to participate in May Terms in China, student/faculty collaborative research projects, and grants to support curricular development and co-curricular events to continue to infuse learning about China across the Earlham curriculum.

In 2012, Bower led a group of students and faculty in a May Term program to study China’s urban and rural areas and the intersections of Han culture with the cultures of several ethnic minority groups. In May 2016, Assistant Professors of History Wayne Soon and Honghong Tinn will lead a May Term entitled “Global Powers in Taiwan.”

Previously, Librarian Emeritus Leo Chang provided informal Chinese language instruction at Earlham during the late 1990s through 2003. Thanks to the generosity of several donors, professional academic teaching of Chinese up to 300-level courses began in fall of 2013. New faculty hires in history, politics, international studies, and Japanese studies have special interests in China and Taiwan, and a Chinese Studies minor was approved by the faculty in February 2015.

Professor of Chemistry Corinne Deibel participated in the first faculty development trip in 2010 and has since established a collaborative research project with students studying ancient artifacts in China during the summers of 2013 and 2015. Using portable X-ray Fluorescence and FTIR Spectroscopy and working with Dr. Sun Zhouyong at the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology in Xi’an, Deibel and students analyzed priceless Neolithic jade from Shimao, one of the top 10 archaeological sites in the world, and pottery from a Yangguanzhai Neolithic site just north of Xi’an. After processing and analyzing the data, elemental concentration patterns emerged, providing sample groupings, which could eventually be used to  establish provenance.

“(It was) an incredible opportunity to be there when so few people have studied this site, and to work alongside renowned Chinese scholars,” says Deibel. “We were some of the first Westerners there, and our students learned archeological field techniques that, as a chemist, I had no experience with. It was much more than an academic experience; it was a cultural experience.”

John Hornak ’17, a Biochemistry major who also took Bower’s Earlham Seminar entitled “China’s Emerging Identities”, says the summer research was transformational and gave him an advantage toward graduate school.

“This was the best experience of my life,” Hornak says. “I grew a ton and learned a lot about myself. I loved the research of course, but I also loved exploring the city and talking with people.”

— EC —

Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a "College That Changes Lives." We expect our students to be fully present: to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success. Earlham is one of only 40 national liberal arts colleges ranked among U.S. News and World Reports' "Great Schools at a Great Price."

Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at (765) 983-1256 and zimmebr@earlham.edu.

 

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