UW–Madison scholars gain global perspectives at summer institute hosted by Beijing Normal

The annual summer institute is an effort to build a cross-cultural platform for meaningful intellectual dialogue. This year’s program theme was, “Re-envisioning Globalization, Regionalization, and Localization in Education and Society.”

Hanna Lichtenstein, Kristen McNeill and Carolyn Schroeder visit the Great Wall
Hanna Lichtenstein, Kristen McNeill and Carolyn Schroeder pose for a photo during a visit to the Great Wall of China.

Those from UW–Madison taking part in the program, which ran July 8-15, included: Hanna Lichtenstein and Kristen McNeill, who are master’s degree students with the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis’ Global Higher Education program; alumna Carolyn Schroeder, a 2018 graduate from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction’s Elementary Education program; and Adam Nelson, a Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor with the Department of Educational Policy Studies.

“The trip provided a unique opportunity to collaborate with an international cohort of graduate and undergraduate students with various interests in the field of education,” says Lichtenstein. “I found incredible value in opportunity to practice cross-cultural communication and professionalism. The theme of the program was broad enough for each student to bring out their own focus and/or research in the field of education.”

Globalization has had a significant impact on the education landscape, with its effects on display at the summer program in Beijing, where students from INEI institutions interacted with students from another initiative, the Future Education Leaders Program (FELP), also hosted by Beijing Normal University.

INEI consists of nine leading educational institutions from across the world and is dedicated to making impacts on policy decisions, influencing funding and inspiring research and interventions that have a meaningful impact on education locally and globally. FELP, meanwhile, is designed to build education partnerships between China and so-called “Belt and Road” nations, where China is forging closer economic, diplomatic and strategic ties as part of its multi-faceted bid for global power.

Just as the United States once developed extensive educational partnerships in pursuit of “soft power” during the cold war, so other countries have used initiatives like INEI and FELP to expand their global educational reach.

Adam Nelson

“It was certainly interesting to be at a university that is re-envisioning its own culture around internationalization,” says Lichtenstein.

“It’s remarkable to watch the ways in which China’s leading universities have seized the opportunity of the post-cold-war era to build connections and lead conversations across the full spectrum of academic fields,” adds Nelson. “While many public research universities in the United States have experienced significant funding cuts, China has invested heavily in its top universities, which are vaulting up the world rankings at extraordinary speed. They’re really preparing for the future.”

UW–Madison has long had particularly robust ties with Chinese universities. In the 1910s, during the administration of Charles Van Hise, UW hosted dozens of “Boxer Indemnity Scholars,” some of whom returned to develop institutions that would become some of China’s greatest universities. For example, Zhou Yichun, who received his master’s degree from the School of Education at UW–Madison in 1910, went on to establish the school that became the prestigious Tsinghua University. Later, under the forward-looking administration of Chancellor Irving Shain in the late 1970s and early 1980s, UW–Madison brought more than 400 Chinese scientists, social scientists and humanists to Madison for graduate and post-graduate study. Many later held top positions in Chinese higher education, science, technology, culture and politics, and helped to facilitate the broader “opening” of Deng Xiaoping’s regime.

Today, as China presses toward great-power status, the School of Education at UW–Madison is continuing its close ties with Chinese universities: this fall, the Department of Educational Policy Studies will partner with the Center for East Asian Studies on a “cluster hire” to advance these partnerships.

Hanna Lichtenstein
Hanna Lichtenstein delivers a presentation during the 2018 INEI Summer Program at Beijing Normal University.

Similarly, the 2018 INEI Summer Program focused its efforts on delivering fresh perspectives to those in attendance on how best to make the world a better place. Efforts centered on: re-envisioning development and innovation in global education; re-envisioning teaching and learning in higher education; and re-envisioning Chinese culture and society.

“I had the opportunity to learn about research that was being done across the globe, engage in dialogue about how social justice was informing higher education policies and practices among different countries, and form relationships with students and faculty from around the world,” says Lichtenstein. “I also gained some perspective of what the landscape of higher education was like in other countries, such as Canada, South Korea, and Brazil.”

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