ASU helps send American studies to China


Mary Beth Faller

Students in China are eager to learn about American culture, and Arizona State University is part of a project designed to meet that need.

This week, 21 professors from 10 Chinese universities are visiting the ASU campus, where they will work with faculty here to develop American studies curriculum.

The American Experience Initiative began a few years ago, when ASU received a $750,000 grant from the Luce Foundation to create a collaborative project for cross-cultural education.

The Chinese professors are attending workshops at ASU to produce the course modules, which will be taught in China both in person and online.

Eric Wertheimer, associate dean of graduate initiatives, is the primary investigator for the grant, saw firsthand the thirst for all things American in China.

“When I was in China last summer, my class in American poetry had a significant plurality of students who were studying hydrology,” he said, explaining that the hydrology students just wanted a taste of the American experience.

“There’s an intense interest in understanding American cultural life, and being able to gain fluency in that is an advantage.”

To see all parts of American culture, the Chinese contingent will visit the Heard Museum, eat Mexican food and attend a Phoenix Suns basketball game during their visit.

The Chinese team also will tour Hayden Library and have access to ASU’s archives.

“The library is an extremely important component to all this," Werthheimer said. "They’ll have the ability to access materials that would be very hard for them to access in China.”

Faculty from 10 Chinese universities tour the ASU Tempe campus as part of the American Experience Initiative. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Wertheimer said that ASU is an ideal partner for the initiative.

“ASU has a nice overlap with the mission of the Luce Foundation, which is to reduce the obstacles between students and education,” he said.

Several ASU faculty members will hold intense one-on-one workshops with their Chinese counterparts to make sure the course work is up to date in scholarship.

The course content varies. Wertheimer is working with one of the universities on a course in presidential speeches. Another module explores American influence in China. The class will incorporate different genres, such as news reports and literary works, and different formats, such as books, photos, music and documentary film.

“We’re interested in sharing the cultural and social lessons of American life and the problems and the promise,” he said.

Top photo: Faculty from Chinese universities are visiting ASU as part of the American Experience Initiative to create American studies courses for Chinese students. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now