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Cross-Cultural Encounters: MSMC and Nanjing University students share virtual classroom

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A view of the Confucius Temple in Nanjing, China. This fall, students from Mount St. Mary's and Nanjing University will join together in a Cultural Studies course: “Cross-Cultural Encounters: U.S. and China."

What does it mean to be American or Chinese in today’s world? A group of students from Mount St. Mary’s and from China’s Nanjing University are going to discuss that very question this fall. 

Students from each university will join in a hybrid course that will allow them to interact online as they consider the similarities and differences in the cultural outlooks of contemporary Chinese and Americans. The Cultural Studies 120 course, “Cross-Cultural Encounters: U.S. and China,” will challenge participants to examine attitudes within each country toward education, careers, families and more.

“This is a one-of-a- kind class, blending in-class instruction on Chinese history and culture, with meaningful communication with students from Nanjing University,” says Jane Crawford, PhD, a history and political science professor at the Mount who will lead the course. Crawford’s teaching counterpart in China will be He Ning, PhD, chair of Nanjing’s English Department.

To generate cross-continental discussions, students in each country will be asked to read the same works of fiction and nonfiction – each book focusing on different aspects of modern American and Chinese life. Some of the books to be read include: “River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze”: “Typical American”; “Yin-Yang: American Perspectives on Living in China”; and “The Yin & Yang of American Culture: A Paradox.”

As each work is read, classroom discussion will travel back and forth between Los Angeles and Nanjing, as students post questions and comments with each other online. These conversations will be integral not just to each students’ grades, but also to the impact of the class. 

“The course is a great opportunity for Mount students to have deep, sustained dialogues with Chinese peers,” says Julie Feldman-Abe, PhD, director of the Mount’s Center for Cultural Fluency and its “Bridging Cultures: US-China” program. “This type of learning is increasingly essential to our globally interconnected lives.”

“Cross-Cultural Encounters” marks another expansion of the Mount’s ongoing partnership with Chinese universities such as Nanjing. For instance, Mount St. Mary’s and Nanjing University have already established a student exchange program and a visiting scholars initiative, as well as joint research and curriculum development.

Over the past two years, Mount St. Mary’s has also used a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to better integrate international cultures – particularly Chinese culture – into a cross-section of undergraduate and graduate coursework.