Zhuhai, China, is situated on the Pearl River delta, which runs through the Asian mainland. But its waterside tourist value isn’t what makes Zhuhai important to Concordia College.
Zhuhai is home to the United International College – the first and only liberal arts college in China.
With 4,000 students and a focus on English emersion, UIC established partnership with the Minnesota Private College Council in 2006. Since, three Concordia students have spent a semester in Zhuhai, and over 15 faculty members have visited or taught at UIC.
Concordia faculty members Joan Kopperud, Kristi Loberg, David Wintersteen and Greg Carlson returned Monday from a 10-day trip to China. For Kopperud and Loberg, the trip allowed them to meet the same group they convened with at Augsburg College last June. Both last summer and during this trip, professors from the MPCC and the UIC exchanged pedagogy techniques and listened to various presentations, this time including one on service learning presented by Kopperud.
Kopperud, a professor of English, said the UIC’s curriculum is centered on allowing their students to grow in all aspects of their life, similar to the goals for liberal learning at Concordia.
“I was impressed with their commitment to the whole person,” she said.
Kopperud returned to campus with ideas for including Chinese culture into her classroom, especially with her inquiry seminar, called “Food as Identity, Conflict, and Culture.” She brought back an entire basketful of Chinese candies for sharing, as well as a fancy, 15-course menu from a dinner that was provided to the Concordia faculty during their stay at the UIC.
Duck, jellyfish, black bean soup and squid were included in the menu, alongside tripe, otherwise known as pig intestines, and bird nest soup, an expensive Chinese delicacy made from swallow saliva.
“This shows what honored guests we were,” Kopperud said, “that they’d serve bird nest soup.” She said it tasted similar to chicken broth.
While Kopperud and Loberg, assistant professor of sociology, were engaged with the UIC faculty they met last summer, Wintersteen and Carlson used their time in China to explore possibilities for a new Concordia May Seminar in 2013.
“We want students to make real connections with people and the culture by creating the conditions for students to interact with peers their own age from China,” Wintersteen said.
This May Seminar will be focused on media but will not be limited to communication or theater students. Wintersteen and Carlson, associate and assistant professors of communication studies and theater arts, respectively, hope to connect with a class at UIC during the second semester and let the May Seminar students interact with that class as part of a project. In small groups, the students might make a documentary or short film, two of the possible projects, but for now, Wintersteen said, the students will have flexibility to choose.
The pair explored the infrastructure of Zhuhai, including hotel accommodations, restaurants and transportation options. Additionally, they learned that there would be opportunities for the May Seminar participants to do service learning or tutoring at UIC.
Chinese immersion would be a main goal of the trip, as well.
“We saw a shadow puppet theater,” Carlson said. “They have Tai Chi classes. Those kinds of things would be very appealing to American students.”
Concordia’s growing relationship with China has been evident this fall not just through faculty members traveling there. The China Town Hall took place on Nov. 16 and featured a webcast presentation from Zbigniew Brezeziski, former national security advisor and expert on China U.S. relations. The Concordia Band announced its May 2012 tour to China.
These are the types of events the Office of Global Education strives to provide students, according to Per Anderson, professor and associate dean of global learning.
“It’s a taste for our students of an incredibly fast moving, exploding reality we call China,” Anderson said.
Steph Barnhart, 2013, is a multimedia journalism and public relations major at Concordia College. She has been a contributing writer, staff writer, and the news editor for The Concordian. Steph is an optimistic vegetarian who loves sustainability blogs, green tea, and talking. Follow her on Twitter at @stephbarnhart.