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NEH Grant Experience

Women in China: A Model for Internationalizing the Curriculum and Infusing the Humanities into the Professions

Project Summary

Mount Saint Mary’s University (MSMU), an 86 year old Catholic women’s college in Los Angeles, proposes a faculty development project that will establish a model for both: a) integrating international cultures into our undergraduate and graduate curricula, and b) strengthening the connection to the humanities in our professional schools of nursing, physical therapy, education and business.

With the world’s second largest economy and a rapidly growing influence on global politics and culture, China is one of the most important international cultures to understand for the 21st century. However, it is largely unknown to MSMU undergraduates – many of whom are Latina, first-generation college students from low-income family backgrounds who have not had the opportunity to travel outside of Southern California. To bridge this gap, a cohort of eight faculty members (four from the humanities and four from the professions) will immerse themselves in the study of women in China, with an emphasis on changing gender roles over time from ancient China through the 21st century.

The two-year, intensive learning experience for faculty includes the following key phases:

  1. A nine month period of study that includes readings; six public lectures; six faculty seminars with visiting scholars; and six follow-up discussions. Each public lecture and faculty seminar will look at women in China through a different lens, i.e., History, Philosophy, Poetry, Literature, Fine Arts, and Film. In addition to their specialized expertise, the six visiting scholars were selected from major research universities in the Southern California region with an eye toward building institutional partnerships in the future.
  2. A seven-day immersive experience in China that includes meetings and seminars with faculty in the English Department of Nanjing University, and guided visits to key cultural sites that complement the faculty cohort’s studies and course development work.
  3. A 14-month period of course development, delivery of new and modified courses, assessment, and the creation of an online framework for sustaining the learning experience and aggregating China-related humanities resources.

As a result of this project, we will: 1) Modify or create 15 courses across three degree levels and eight majors; 2) Develop our Cultural Studies minor into a major; 3) Deepen our relationship with China’s Nanjing University for ongoing student/faculty dialogue and the development of shared coursework; and 4) Expand MSMU’s Center for Cultural Fluency as a forum for ongoing dialogue and sharing among faculty — particularly between those in the humanities and those in the professions — by creating a “China Resource Network” under its auspices.

Ultimately, we see this project as a model that can bring greater depth to our teaching of international cultures, and intend to adapt and apply this approach to other parts of the world in the future.

Photos were taken by Alan Lee, Julie Feldman-Abe, David Leese, and Montserrat Reguant.