Sharon Ruwart (卢飒)分享 CEO Elsevier S&T China


On Safari: Seeking the "Special Flavor" of China's Universities 精选

已有 10414 次阅读 2007-9-28 16:18 |个人分类:My Life|系统分类:海外观察

This is my first time blogging on a Chinese website.   Thank you to  ScienceNet for giving me the chance!  For my first post I'm writing about some impressions of Chinese universities compared to Western ones. I'm happy to have your suggestions for future topics you'd like me to address!


As a bit of background, I'm 44 years old and have lived in Beijing for over 3 years. I first came to China to teach English in 1985, at Hunan Medical College, as part of the Yale-China program. I moved back to the States in 1987 but returned to Beijing in 2004 with my husband - an American whom I met in China in 1986 - and my two daughters - who now speak Chinese better than me! I'll tell you more about them in future posts.


As the China CEO for Elsevier Science & Technology, one of the most interesting parts of my job is visiting Chinese universities, and I've been to quite a few of them in the past year. Since I'm based in Beijing, I'm now very familiar with BeiDa's beautiful lake, which I've seen in all four season (I think winter is my favorite, with the ice on the water). And at Tsinghua I've been inside quite a few laboratory buildings, bristling with equipment and serious researchers peering intro microscopes. As a non-scientist, I'm always impressed  -  and  intimidated   -  to visit scientists in their native environment  of  the lab.


Lately I've had chances to get out of Beijing and visit universities in other cities, so I'm expanding my list of "favorites." Tianjin University reminds me a lot of my alma mater, Yale. It has a combination of old buildings right next to new ones, but the contrast has a harmonious effect, as it does at Yale.


East China Normal University, in Shanghai, has a brand-new campus with the outline of a leaf, with social sciences buildings on one side and natural sciences on the other. With its rolling hills and trees in front of a giant new library at the center of the "leaf," ECNUreminded me of Stanford, where I attended graduate school. It felt like a place where students could be comfortable outdoors as well as indoors - but I visited during the recent typhoon - not a great time to experience this effect!


On my visits, I've noticed some visible differences in China from the US and European universities. One big contrast is the relative absence, in China, of the kiosks bristling with posters and flyers that are universal on American campuses. These kiosks are a central feature of campus life because that's where student groups advertise film festivals, charity drives, try-outs for drama or music groups, research studies looking for volunteers, special lectures by visiting scholars, and many other events and activities.


The kiosks are pretty untidy-looking, with new flyers  competing with older ones faded from sun or rain, overlapping and crowding each other for attention of passers-by. Every day students run up with bundles of colorful posters and staple guns to slam new flyers on top of the old ones that they tear down, leaving ragged corners flapping in the breeze. The whole effect is lively, and bursting with energy. Spend 5 minutes examining a typical kiosk and you'll get a good sense of the university's "personality": sporty or serious? Activist or scholarly? What are the big issues students are debating, or the extra-curricular fads sweeping the campus  - debating, salsa dancing, community service, the Iraq war? 


Chinese universities are much more tidy - I've seen some a few kiosks sporting some posters, but not as many as overseas . Kiosks  and   bulletin boards here tend to be demurely encased in glass windows. I imagine that permission is required to post  on them . On these, I've seen announcements of many of the same kinds of activities as on foreign campuses - for films, lectures, and such - but I've found it harder to get that sense of a university's special flavor and personality from these displays. I need to spend more time on campuses, and talk to more students, to understand what makes them distinctive.


Next month I'll travel to a famous US university, and I'll try to take some pictures of their kiosks and bulletin boards to post here, so you can see what I'm talking about. I'd love to hear your advice on where I should look on Chinese campuses to find the "special flavor" of China's universities. 

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