The J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board has chosen Dr. Robert Swansbrough, Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences and professor of political science at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, to be a Fulbright Scholar in China. He will teach from February 2010 until June 2010, during the People’s Republic of China (PRC) spring 2010 semester.
“The Fulbright lectureship provides an extraordinary opportunity for Bob Swansbrough to share with students and colleagues in China the knowledge gained in a long career of studying and participating in American politics. His excitement about going to China is very obvious to those of us who work with him every day,” said Dr. Herb Burhenn, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Swansbrough will be teaching a class on American Government and another on U.S. Foreign Policy in Sichuan University, a campus of 60,000 students, in Chengdu, a city of 12 million in southwest China.
“This country fascinates me,” Swansbrough said. “Its size, population, the length of its recorded history and cultural differences are some of the reasons I requested to teach there.”
In recent years, the PRC has become more open to the West. Academic programs that reinforce teaching the English language are particularly welcome, according to Swansbrough. China was the first country to accept Fulbright Scholars, but 10 to 20 years ago, there were government monitors in classrooms posing censorship hurdles. Though there are differences between the two countries in defining a democracy, American professors no longer face recrimination for teaching in China.
“Chinese students enjoy different forms of pedagogy. They respond to the informality, the exchange of ideas between professor and student,” Swansbrough said.
Students at the university level in China have been learning English since grammar school, allowing Swansbrough to breach the language barrier in the classroom. He looks forward to meeting students for tea and dinner to continue academic discussions outside the classroom. He’s also decided to borrow an idea from a former Fulbright Scholar who introduced a weekly movie night for students.
“I am building a supply of American DVDs with political themes, so that we can discuss what these movies say about American government,” Swansbrough said.