Thursday, June 19, 2014

Faculty Spotlight: Paul Armstrong-Taylor

Resident Professor of International Economics Paul Armstrong-Taylor reflects on what makes HNC a special place.  Professor Armstrong-Taylor teaches courses on Comparative Economics, Economics of Strategy, Financial Crises, and Corporate Finance. Prior to coming to the Center, he worked at Morgan Stanley, Monitor Group and Shanghai Jiaotong University. He earned his PhD in Economics from Harvard University, and his BA and MPhil from Cambridge University. He is British. And, most importantly, he has been voted the three time winner of the best laugh at HNC award.

This year's students have just graduated and this is always a time of mixed feelings for me: on the one hand, there is pride at seeing my students complete their studies successfully; on the other, a sadness that they will be leaving soon and that I will not see many of them again. It is also a time of reflection on my experiences at HNC and what makes this such a special place.

While our academic program is very strong (as any perusal of the backgrounds of our faculty or success of our alumni will attest to), for me HNC's unique strength is its community.  There are about 200 faculty, staff and students at the Center who all live, eat, and sometimes play together. This allows us to know each other in a way that is not possible at most other institutions.

As an example, four years ago I cofounded the Migrant Student Learning Initiative (MSLI) with Angela Chang (then a Master's student, now HNC Academic Coordinator). MSLI gives opportunities for Chinese and international student pairs to teach English to children of migrants or rural residents who are both poor and excluded from the mainstream urban schools. 

Stronger Together: HNC Students Teaching at Bainian
Currently we work with the Bainian Vocational School in Nanjing. This school is special because it is not only educates students, but also places them in jobs at top hotels in Nanjing. Teaching English is not an academic exercise here – students need these skills and we feel we can have a real impact on their future career.
Not all work:  Thriller Dance at Bainian Halloween Party
For the volunteers too, there are real benefits. Our students work in pairs of international and Chinese students to co-teach classes. This has turned out to be a great strength: international students may have better knowledge of colloquial English, but Chinese students understand the challenges of learning English as a second language. The combination is more effective than the parts: an excellent example of the culture of the Center.

MSLI is far from the only example of interactions between international and Chinese students, and between faculty and students at the Center. At least in my experience, this is a special and very rewarding feature of our community.