The Summer Workshop on Frontiers in Humanistic Studies brought 21 undergraduates and 20 graduate students from Beijing Normal University to Oregon State for three weeks of intensive training in literary studies, critical theory, visual culture, American academic writing, and film studies. Running from July 16 to August 6, 2017, the program was team-taught by SWLF faculty members Rebecca Olson, Peter Betjemann, Liz Delf, Mila Zuo, and Raymond Malewitz, who served as its academic coordinator. Lei Xue, an associate professor in Art History at OSU, founded the program and served as its director. Most importantly, 5 GTAs led daily discussion sections on the course materials, gaining valuable experience in international education and earning a summer stipend for their efforts. They are Jessie Heine, Peter Dahl, Victoria Genovese, Chessie Alberti, and Ryan Lackey. We hope that this partnership will become an annual program, and we are already making plans to expand it in summer 2018.
"The BNU summer program was a fantastic experience. As a GTA, I found myself engaged in a dynamic space of teaching and learning which gave me the opportunity to use my skills as an instructor as well as a collaborative learner. The students were phenomenal. Every day they impressed me both with their brilliance as thinkers and learners but as kind and fun people. The program was challenging in the best ways, as well as fun and gratifying." - Peter Dahl, MA '18 Literature and Culture
"My experience working as a GTA for the Beijing Normal University study abroad program afforded me the opportunity for professional development, learning about literary, cultural and academic customs of China, and for making lasting friends with the brilliant students that we were privileged to meet. In the BNU program, I was able to participate in curriculum development that was extremely personalized to the program, and involved observing and gauging the interests and proficiency of the students. This was very satisfying and rewarding to not only learn to develop curriculum on a reactionary level, but to see student's appreciation at the response to their input. Working closely with accomplished students from a top three university in China meant the opportunity to learn about the Chinese literary and academic traditions with which they are so familiar, and also to have an open cultural exchange that benefited me as a GTA just as much as it did the students. Finally, working with people who are enthusiastic about literature and language promises common interests, but I did not go into this program with the expectation that I would leave with new friends, and I certainly did. It was a really fun and joyous experience to work with these kind and smart students, and I feel very lucky for the opportunity and experience." - Jessie Heine, MA '18 Literature and Culture
"The BNU summer program was one of the best teaching experiences I've ever had. It was so cool to get to connect with what undergrad and graduate students are doing in our field on the other side of the world. We all learned so much from them, about linguistics, culture, literature, film--I felt so energized and inspired by their enthusiasm. It was also very cool to bond with the other TAs and to stay connected to being in the classroom even though it is summer. I feel more prepared than ever to start my second year of teaching. Overall, it was a fantastic experience, and I cannot recommend it more. " - Chessie Alberti, MA '18 Rhetoric and Composition
"This summer's OSU-BNU partnership program realized the noblest and most affirming possibilities of efforts at diversity and cross-cultural exchange. I cannot express with sufficient fervor my gratitude for three weeks spent in classrooms with the BNU students, who were inquisitive and brilliant and enthusiastic and endlessly patient with me. To see the sort of passion I hope I hold towards books and ideas grown and expressed by in an unfamiliar context by students of Chinese language and literature challenged me to grow and, at the same time, was deeply encouraging, reminding me that those loves and curiosities are shared and numerous.
Though the BNU students' English fluency was laudable—I can't imagine trying to do in another language the sort of high-level work we asked of them—their patience during moments of communicative difficulty, or the first few days of the program as the curriculum adjusted on-the-fly to match their capability, was generous. Admittedly cliche, my three weeks were, really, characterized by my own learning—from the students, from the lectures—more than my teaching. Without the program, for example, I'd be unfamiliar with poet Li Bai, a plush figure of whom now sits above my bookshelf.
As the program moves forward, my only concerns—planning, logistics, communication, efficiency—will be solved, I'm sure, with more than three or four months to plan. At times the day-to-day, or even hour-to-hour, progression felt chaotic, and so the ability to plan ahead and work with a sense of backwards design proved challenging. But all of the conceptual and relational aspects of the program—the goals, the curriculum, the cultural exchange—worked wonderfully, and should continue." Ryan Lackey, MA '18 Literature and Culture