Thursday, February 25, 2016

HNC Alumni Profile: Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, HNC Certificate 2012, shares how her HNC experience helped further her career goals. Bethany is the current assistant editor of Foreign Policy magazine's China channel Tea Leaf Nation.

Tell us about your current role.
In my role as assistant editor of Foreign Policy magazine's China channel Tea Leaf Nation, I write timely coverage and analysis of news and major trends in China. I also provide on-air commentary for broadcast media such as CNN International, BBC's The World, and PRI, and I've spoken on panels at Georgetown University and Tufts University.

How do you think your experience at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center prepared you for this work?
I would not be where I am today if I hadn't studied at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. I must be able to swiftly skim and analyze Chinese-language media for an English-speaking audience; I must be able to conduct interviews in Chinese; and above all, I must understand the context for events and trends in China. The intensive language and culture immersion at the HNC afforded me that skill set, giving me a distinct competitive edge.

What advice would you give someone contemplating attending the Hopkins-Nanjing Center?
For those who want to make China a part of their long-term career but haven't yet mastered Chinese, there is no better choice than the HNC.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

HNC Alumni Profile: Sean Ages

Sean Ages, HNC MAIS 2013, reflects back on his time at the HNC and his experience working for the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Read on to hear how his HNC experience helped further his career.

Tell us about your current role.
Right now I’m at Treasury’s Office of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, which is the office that coordinates the Economic Track of the yearly bilateral summit. Day-to-day, it’s a bit of everything: writing briefings, coordinating a unified government policy for negotiations, doing logistical legwork for the event, and everything in between. I love the variety and the pacing, plus the ability to be exposed to a little bit of nearly every office at Treasury and many other federal agencies.

How do you think your experience at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center prepared you for this work?
The classes at HNC provided a great foundation for me to work at the Treasury. I focused on international politics at HNC and Treasury often deals with the intersections of economics, law, international relations, and politics. As I took classes in all of those subjects at HNC, often with a focus on China or the Sino-U.S. angle thereof, I was on solid footing from the day I arrived. Then of course there’s the personal network; I find myself crossing paths both with HNC classmates at other agencies and private organizations and with connections from SAIS all across D.C. Even though I did my entire degree in Nanjing, being able to access the SAIS network has been a great benefit.

Did you leverage the school’s network?
HNC and by extension SAIS provided terrific resources for me. I had great resume development assistance at HNC. An HNC alumna connected me with my job at Kroll in D.C. after graduating. Once I had been accepted into the Presidential Management Fellowship program, the SAIS Office of Career Services offered their services to me, even going so far as to suggest that I attend a SAIS-organized information session on the Foreign Service Examination Oral Assessments; it turns out that the Foreign Service Oral Assessments and the PMF assessments are nearly identical in format. That information was invaluable in my preparation and contributed in no small portion to my success.

What advice would you give someone contemplating attending the Hopkins-Nanjing Center?
HNC is a great place to deepen your understanding of China, Sino-U.S. relations, and everything in between. The language component is challenging, of course, but nowhere else can you really live and breathe Chinese in such a unique academic setting. Consider taking a class at HNC that isn’t necessarily in your area of focus; my favorite course at HNC was a class, taught in Chinese, on the American Supreme Court. HNC is also a great community. Every year, nearly all the students and a good portion of faculty participate in a walk around the entire length of the old city walls of Nanjing. Getting every student together for such an event at any other school seems laughable, but only at HNC is it natural.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Interview with Chinese Studies Professor Hua Tao

For my second professor interview, I decided to speak with my professor for “Social Issues of China’s Modernization.” This is one of the most popular courses at the HNC for good reason. The course focuses a lot on issues that have developed since China’s “Reform and Opening”(改革开放)and Chinese society still faces, such as wealth inequality, environmental concerns, China’s urbanization and city planning, and many others. However outside the content of the course, one of the main benefits of this class is learning from Professor Hua Tao. Professor Hua Tao has been teaching at the HNC for over a decade and has found a way to engage both international students and Chinese students so well that his classes are always among the most popular.

Andrew with Professor Hua Tao

Q&A with Professor Hua Tao

Please tell me a little about your background, individual research, and when you came to HNC?
 I received my doctorate from Nanjing University in 1989. My research is in Chinese History. I came to teach at Hopkins-Nanjing Center in 1994. Once I started, the classes I taught were focused on issues facing the ethnic minorities in China. Next semester I’ll be teaching a class on that subject. However, I also focus a lot on issues facing Chinese Han society as a whole.

What classes do you teach?
Social Issues of China’s Modernization 
Ethnic Minorities in China
I also teach a few classes on Nanjing University’s campus regarding China’s Ethnic Minorities and Chinese History.

How long have you been teaching at HNC?
This is my eleventh year.

Can you describe the pedagogical techniques used at HNC?
HNC’s overall teaching paradigm is the model of students using their target language in content courses. This is an important goal for both Chinese and international students. For the most part, the Chinese professors use Chinese to teach the international students. The international professors use English to teach the Chinese students. There are also classes that have both Chinese and international students. In addition, the Chinese professors also teach at other universities (most come from Nanjing University.)

Each professor has his or her own teaching method. However, most Chinese professors, after arriving at HNC try to learn the American teaching style. By this I mean that they try to have their students participate more in class through class discussions, etc. However, Chinese professors may have some areas where they need to improve, so we encourage feedback from the students.

What, in your opinion, is the biggest benefit to studying at HNC?
In my opinion the biggest benefit for students is what we just discussed. Students use their target language in content courses. For international students, not only is this good to learn the teaching methods of Chinese faculty, but it is also useful to understand how Chinese faculty approach problems. Chinese students can do the same for the international faculty.

At the same time, while living at the HNC, there is a very close-knit group. Nearly everyone knows each other and we discuss topics with everyone. So the HNC is a great opportunity for mutual understanding and learning between the Chinese and international students and faculty. In the future, we will need this kind of mutual understanding, so the HNC really is an important location for the future.

What, in your opinion, is the biggest benefit to studying in Nanjing?
Nanjing is not Beijing. Nanjing means the south capital in Chinese while Beijing is the North capital. Beijing right now is the political and government center. While studying there, true, it may be closer to and have more opportunities to understand China’s central government; however, due to the Internet, it is still very easy to understand China’s government while studying in Nanjing, which is the capital of one of China’s more developed provinces. In addition, in the Chinese context, it is much easier to openly discuss topics in Nanjing. There is a much greater sense of academic freedom here. Even after China’s “Reform and Opening” in 1978, and China becoming more and more free, there are still a number of topics in China that people need to be careful about discussing at large events, like press conferences. It is much easier to discuss these issues in Nanjing rather than Beijing.
In addition, Nanjing is not Shanghai. Shanghai is very modern and international, but people in Shanghai have too many opportunities. Students will often lose track of their studies and engage in other activities. However it’s only about an hour to an hour and a half away from Nanjing.
Finally, Nanjing is not too big of a city and it is still very convenient.

What, in your opinion, do students often struggle with at HNC? Does it differ for International and Chinese students?
One of the biggest problems is sometimes it is a challenge to engage with other students, especially between Chinese and International students. Of course, to solve problems such as these, the first thing we need is communication. This is important not only for the exchange of ideas, but also so students can help each other understand the material. Certain classes, such as my Social Issues of China’s Modernization course, have a large number of international students and only a few Chinese students, so my students sometimes encounter this problem. However, when students find ways to overcome this problem, it is a great experience for them.

Have you kept in touch with previous students (Western and Chinese)? Where do most of them go (industry, govt., continued study) after HNC?
I have maintained connections with a number of HNC’s alumni. For example, one former student who graduated four to five years ago is currently working in the American Consulate General in Shanghai. Every once and a while he comes back to HNC to give a lecture. In addition, when we can, we get together to play ping-pong with each other.

In addition, another international alum that I have maintained connections with is currently living in Beijing and is doing research on Chinese studies.  I have maintained relations with a number of the Chinese alumni. One former student is the Vice President of Guangzhou’s School of International Studies.

Do you have any recommendations for incoming students to prepare for HNC?
As soon as possible, adjust to HNC’s study schedule and lifestyle. That is definitely the most important point. And of course, try your best!

Many thanks to Professor Hua Tao for agreeing to answer my questions.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Why Hopkins-Nanjing? Perspectives from Alumni

As the Hopkins-Nanjing Center begins to gear up for the 30th Anniversary Celebration this June, we asked alumni to reflect back on their HNC experiences.  “Just one year of study ended up having a very large impact on my life,” alumnus Brian Wong (HNC 1997) comments. Brian went on from the HNC to become one of the very first non-Chinese employees at Alibaba and only the 52nd at the company. He now serves as Vice President in the Office of the Chairman, Jack Ma. 

Watch the following 2-minute video to hear more perspectives from HNC alumni.

Alumni featured in the video are:

Brian Wong (HNC 1997) Vice President, Alibaba Group
Brantley Turner (HNC 2000) Vice-Principal, Shanghai Qibao Dwight High School
Helen Yan (HNC 1995) Vice President, Corporate Development, Sanofi
Jonathan Garrison (HNC 2000) General Manager, International Cooperation Development,  Wanda Group

Share your stories with us! To view more updates from HNC Alumni, visit our class notes page.