By Khalil Dixon
Rozell Duncan, Ph.D., assistant professor and undergraduate advisor, and Associate Professor Nichole Egbert, Ph.D., both of the School of Communication Studies (COMM), taught students at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China, June 30 to July 21, 2013.
Sichuan University invited Duncan and Egbert to teach short-term coursework during its three-week International Course Weeks program, which offered an international experience for its students by inviting instructors and students from 25 universities in the United States, Canada and Australia to its campus.
“With two of us having represented the School of Communication Studies, it really showed that we have quality folks in our department,” Duncan said. “We do good work, conduct good research and have excellent faculty. This helped our department shine not only in the college but also across the university.”
She continued with, “I feel that as a faculty member in our department, we have so much to offer and so little is known about the School of Communication Studies. People think we’re a fluff department, and we’re not. There is a lot of substance to what we teach.”
Duncan taught leadership and crisis communication courses. She said this was an opportunity for COMM to get on the map and forge lasting collegial relationships with other universities internationally.
Egbert, who taught non-verbal communication across cultures and introduction to interpersonal communication courses, said she was excited about the opportunity to interact with students in China and with faculty from all over the world. However, media restrictions and abbreviated lesson plans presented challenges.
“These were basically one-credit classes and were about 1/3 of what we normally teach in three-credit classes,” Egbert said. “I also use a lot of YouTube and Internet, but there were a lot of restrictions on these things in China. So, I had to figure out what materials I had to take that were self-contained and that were appropriate for both the time and the students.”
“I would normally have students do concept papers and oral presentations,” Duncan explained. “But, what I decided to do was give them one or two exam assessments to make sure they had been listening and had understood the concepts.”
Kent State has formal partnerships with several Chinese universities. Egbert said having faculty travel to China will help Kent State better meet the needs of its Chinese student population.
“It’s going to help us understand our Chinese students better so that we can meet their needs and cement our partnership with Sichuan University, which is already strong,” Egbert said. “These kinds of exchanges are invaluable. There’s no better way to get to know the students, the university and the culture than to spend time visiting.”
Kent State had the most students of any university attend the education abroad program.
“Fourteen students applied, 13 went,” Duncan said. “That’s exciting because we competed against some top notch universities.”
Duncan and Egbert traveled with students to ensure safe arrival and return. Both instructors had studied abroad as undergraduates and said students should seize the opportunity to participate in a study abroad program if possible.
“It was probably the most exciting part of my college career,” Duncan said. “I encourage students as their faculty advisor to embrace these types of opportunities if they can. I think it will open their eyes to new adventures, new people and new cultures in a safe environment.”