The University Record, September 17, 2001

Chem Department, Rackham start book donation program

By Joel Seguine
News and Information Services

YuChun Mao (left) helps Coppola sift through textbooks. (Photo by Paul Jaronski, U-M Photo Services)
A void of college-level science textbooks in China will be partially filled soon through the efforts of a University chemistry professor.

In March of this year, several faculty teams from U-M departments visited China to interview top applicants to graduate programs. The group from chemistry was led by Brian Coppola, associate professor of chemistry. Coppola spoke with one student who observed that a critical problem in his undergraduate education was the scarce availability of science textbooks in English.

When Coppola returned to Ann Arbor, he got in touch with his contacts in textbook publishing. He found that W.H. Freeman, a science textbook publishing company, had a large stock of unused, one-edition-old texts that were perfectly good, but bound for the shredder and a landfill. Freeman agreed to donate a total of 2,500 books.

“We made contact with four of the top Chinese universities and passed along a list of available titles, and they made their selections. I subsequently learned from another source that the Chinese Ministry of Education has placed a very high priority on getting English language textbooks,” explains John Godfrey, assistant dean for international education at Rackham Graduate School.

“All of our contacts in China—from the Education Ministry to the administrations of the five universities to the department heads—have been very enthusiastic and supportive of this project,” declared Coppola. “Each of the publishers I contacted would probably have donated books as well, but they had already recycled their stock. With their support in future years, I’m hopeful we’re seeing the start of a long-term program. This is all about education,” Coppola added. “Providing these books to undergraduates in China is a tangible way to approach the solution of a real, identifiable educational problem.”

The textbooks arrived in Ann Arbor last month and are in storage at a location on North Campus. According to Godfrey, Northwest Airlines has agreed to ship the books to China at no charge. “We are now working through the red tape of customs and sometime in the next month we expect to organize a group to box the books for shipment. Each volume will have a bookplate acknowledging the U-M, Freeman and Northwest. It’s a wonderful corporate-university collaboration,” Godfrey said.

YuChun Mao, the student who planted the seed with Coppola, began his U-M studies last week. According to Godfrey, he is one of the many students from China who faced a struggle in obtaining a visa to study in the U.S. “Of the 169 students who accepted admissions offers to Rackham Graduate School programs, I know of about 50 who were denied visas after the first interview. Most eventually were granted visas after the second or third interview, but this required a huge expenditure of effort by department chairs, faculty, staff and Rackham administrators. We generated a large letter campaign and received a strong assist from the University’s Washington office,” Godfrey said.