It’s a region of China that boasts both rich biodiversity and immense ethnic cultural diversity. Thousands of plant and animal species can be found in the Yunnan province on snow-capped mountains in the north to tropical regions in the south. More than 15,000 ethnic minority students study at Yunnan Minzu University in the province’s capital.
As part of a new partnership with the Chinese university, Furman hopes to host several Chinese students and send dozens from Furman to China to conduct environmental research. A five-member delegation of administrators and professors from Yunnan Minzu University traveled more than 8,000 miles to visit Furman’s campus in September.
Furman recently received an initial $50,000 Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment grant, designed to encourage innovative interdisciplinary teaching, research, and programming on Asia’s environment.
“We have ambitious plans for strengthening Asian environmental studies at Furman, made possible through the creative energy of the faculty and the University’s existing outstanding strengths in Asian studies and sustainability and environmental studies,” said LIASE initiative director and political science/Asian studies professor Kate Kaup, Ph.D.
Over the next year, six faculty from the natural sciences (Wes Dripps, Ph.D., Bill Ranson, Ph.D., and Suresh Muthukrishnan, Ph.D., from EES, Dennis Haney, Ph.D., Min-Ken Liao, Ph.D., and Wade Worthen, Ph.D., from biology) along with Yancey Fouche from the Shi Center and Glen Halva-Neubauer, Ph.D., from political science/urban studies will join the University’s six China specialists (Kate Kaup, Ph.D., Tami Blumenfield, Ph.D., Harry Kuoshu, Ph.D., Dongming Zhang, Ph.D., Lane Harris, Ph.D., and Eiho Baba, Ph.D.) for a year-long LIASE Faculty Workshop to learn from one another and develop new curriculum focused on China’s environmental challenges and opportunities. The group will meet throughout the year before traveling to China for two weeks in summer 2015.
Furman will be developing a two-week Summer China Environmental Experience program at YMU for incoming Furman freshmen. The 14 incoming freshmen’s expenses will be fully covered in exchange for their commitment to take a Chinese language course their freshman year and a first year seminar team-taught by a natural scientist and a China specialist.
Students will also have the opportunity to travel from Furman for a three-week service-learning May Experience in rural Yunnan, where they will be paired with YMU students in the field. YMU faculty and students will participate in Furman’s ongoing summer River Basin Research Initiative where Chinese and American scientists will share best practices and explore means of better protecting valuable river basin resources. And finally, faculty will be exploring collaborative research projects for students and faculty across disciplines and across continents.
“Our students will be working with students from Yunnan Minzu University to address real issues,” said Kaup. “Both sides are eager to learn from the other and make this a truly collaborative and multi-layered set of programs.”
Learn more about Furman’s Department of Asian Studies.
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