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Geoscience faculty members visit China to develop new study abroad program

Two faculty members in WKU’s Department of Geography and Geology recently spent more than one month in China planning a new and innovative study abroad program under the auspices of a U.S. Department of Education Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language (UISFL) grant, written by Amy Eckhardt in WKU’s Office of Scholar Development.

Map of proposed study abroad itinerary in China

This UISFL grant funds WKU faculty and staff who want to travel to China in order to develop courses that will contribute to the university’s growing Chinese language and Asian studies offerings.

Dr. Jun Yan, Associate Professor of Geographic Information Science, and Dr. Xingang Fan, Assistant Professor of Meteorology, are both natives of China. The two professors want to create a new learning experience for students that captures the unique culture, geography, geology and environment of China.

As part of the planning process for this new study abroad opportunity, Dr. Yan and Dr. Fan flew to Beijing, where they envision beginning the program, and then visited southern China, including Chongqing, the Three Gorges section of the Yangtze River, Zhangjiajie and Guilin.

The major caves in southwestern China and the karst areas of Guilin with their rocky peak forests provide unique opportunities for students to examine and learn about the variety of landforms and features that shape China.

Geography and Geology Department Head Dr. David Keeling expressed his excitement about this new study abroad opportunity in China.

“With such broad expertise among our faculty on China and its environment,” Dr. Keeling said, “we believe that students will have a tremendous opportunity to learn about this incredible country from experts who know the country intimately.”

WKU has invested significant resources recently in building relationships with China. WKU is the home to the first Confucius Institute in the state of Kentucky, and also hosts one of only nine Chinese Flagship Programs in the United States. The university has also implemented an Asian Studies major, along with two Asian Studies minor offerings.

In addition, the Department of Geography and Geology, through the Hoffman Institute and its China Environmental Health Program, has a long history of research and academic partnerships with colleagues and institutions in China.

About the U.S. Department of Education Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language (UISFL) Grants: This program provides funds to institutions of higher education, a consortia of such institutions, or partnerships between nonprofit organizations and institutions of higher education to plan, develop, and implement programs that strengthen and improve undergraduate instruction in international studies and foreign languages.

About the Office of Scholar Development: The Office of Scholar Development is committed to helping students on all campuses and in all majors and degree programs develop the vision, experience and skills to be independent, engaged scholars. Students interested in investigating undergraduate scholarships such as the National Department of Defense SMART scholarships, or postgraduate funding opportunities, including the Fulbright or Rotary International Scholarships, should call to schedule an appointment with the Office of Scholar Development at (270) 745-5043.

About the Chinese Flagship Program: WKU’s federally funded Chinese Flagship program is designed to bring talented students who start with no knowledge of Chinese up to superior levels of proficiency by the time they graduate from college. WKU is one of nine universities funded for Chinese by The Language Flagship through the National Security Education Program.

About the Hoffman Environmental Research Institute: The Hoffman Environmental Research Institute at WKU conducts basic and applied research dealing with landscape/atmosphere/water/human interactions, and involves post-doctoral, graduate and undergraduate students in all aspects of this work to prepare them for success in a global society.

For more information about this planned 2011 study abroad program to China, contact Dr. Yan or Dr. Fan at (270) 745-4555.

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