China Beckons Student ScholarsGAMBIER, Ohio (February 18, 2008) Five Kenyon students and faculty mentor Jie Zhang will catch up with rapid change in China this summer on a research trip funded by a $31,000 grant.
Each student will tackle an aspect of "China in Transition" during the three-week trip, guided by Zhang, assistant professor of Chinese. The grant is from the Freeman Foundation through the ASIA Network, a consortium of liberal arts colleges that promotes Asian studies.
"I feel that this is consistent with my interest in supporting my students' research," Zhang said. "Kenyon students have very good training to excel in research."
In addition to Chinese language and culture courses, Zhang has worked with students on senior exercises and independent studies and conference presentations. She has been impressed with the quality of work. "They have analytical skills," she said. "What they need is an opportunity to be exposed to something different, and a changing China is definitely something different.
"There are a lot of really exciting changes going on, and the goal of our research team is to document the changes and put them in context," said Zhang, a native of Taiyuan in Shanxi province.
The grant is part of the ASIA Network's Student-Faculty Fellows Program, which calls for collaborative, student-driven projects under the close supervision of a faculty member. These are the students and their target subjects:
Alexander Gladstone, Class of 2009, of Waban, Massachusetts, will consider the link between economic expansion and representative government.
Amanda Harris, Class of 2010, of Sun Valley, Idaho, will focus on the transformation of private and public spaces and the effect on the Chinese people. Harris will study housing developments, reservoirs, stadiums built for the 2008 Olympic Games, and transportation projects.
Paige Markham, Class of 2009, of Kailua, Hawaii, will examine how traditional Chinese medicine has been influenced by Western medicine.
Andrew Stein, Class of 2009, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, will study environmental problems tied to overpopulation and the runaway exploitation of natural resources.
Jerry Stewart, Class of 2009, of Bluemont, Virginia, will explore religion and spirituality in light of social changes.
Harris hopes to use this trip as a springboard to more travel in China to continue her research. She has studied the language and economy in China for two years at Kenyon. "As I study economics at Kenyon, I can understand concepts in theory, but being able to go to China at such a unique time of change means experiencing the economy," she said.
"I hope to use statistical economic information, historical information and on-site, anecdotal interviews to portray the changes in the country."
She called the travel opportunity "amazing."
The team will visit Beijing, the political and cultural center; Sichuan province, known for its pandas, Buddhist temples, and the Three Gorges Dam; and Shanxi, a coal-mining and industrial center and one of the world's most polluted environments.
Research results will be shared with the ASIA Network; in Kenyon classes, senior presentations, and colloquies; and perhaps at a regional conference of the Association of Asian Studies.
Zhang is also eager to make the trip to collect teaching material for courses on Chinese culture and film. She last lived in China in 1998. "I will be able to better understand the drastic changes that have occurred in recent years, and I will know better how to continue to support my students' learning and research," she said. "I feel very grateful."
The Freeman Foundation, based in Stowe, Vermont, is dedicated to fostering understanding between the United States and the countries of East Asia.