The University Record, September 17, 2001

Women’s Studies Program offers workshop in China

By Judy Steeh
News and Information Services

Hui Chunru, president of Chinese Women’s College, Beijing.
As China undergoes rapid and fundamental social and economic changes, it’s looking to the University for guidance in the area of women’s studies. This summer three U-M researchers were invited to bridge the cultural gap by presenting a workshop in Beijing for professors and graduate students from universities all across China.

Dena Goodman, women’s studies and history, Pamela Trotman Reid, psychology, education, Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWG), and director of the Women’s Studies program; and Sidonie Smith, women’s studies and English, presented the workshop at the Chinese Women’s College, the flagship educational institution of China’s National Women’s Federation. Their goal, says Goodman, was two-fold. “We came to Beijing to share our own experience and insights in designing and teaching women’s studies courses and curricula. We also wanted to learn about the issues and concerns the Chinese women brought to the development of women’s studies in a very different context than our own.”

The group discussed the organization and structure of the University’s program and shared their own research as it intersects with issues of women and gender. The two groups found much in common, Smith says, in terms of both academic issues and the generational gap in perceptions of feminism. The most significant differences surfaced during a workshop on classroom structure and pedagogical techniques.

Professors and graduate students came from universities all across China to attend the U-M workshop on women’s studies.
“Professors see themselves as authority figures who lecture their students and, essentially, tell them what to believe,” she says. “The concept of student empowerment, of teaching critical thinking skills, was new to many.”

“The group was excited about the techniques we use to encourage students to think and participate in classroom activities,” Reid adds. “They adhere to a very formal classroom structure in China.”

Following the workshop the Michigan delegation met with officials from the Chinese Women’s College and the Women’s Studies Program of the Chinese University of Hong Kong to discuss a possible

joint venture that would bring together faculty and graduate students from all three institutions

together in a transnational, interdisciplinary learning community.

The Beijing workshop was part of an ongoing multi-year project funded by the Ford Foundation and directed by Dr. Wang Zheng, a historian of women and feminism in China who will be joining the Michigan faculty in January 2002 as associate professor of women’s studies and senior researcher in IRWG.