Curriculum and ERE Changes in HNC

Cai Jiahe
Cai Jiahe

MARYAN ESCARFULLETT and RUI ZHONG
Associate Editor and Staff Blogger at SAIS Nanjing

The Hopkins-Nanjing Center curriculum is undergoing a large and gradual transformation, according to the HNC Deputy Dean of Academic Affairs Cai Jiahe.

One example of this change is the upcoming availability of the Energy, Resources, and Environment Concentration (ERE) to HNC students beginning in the fall of 2014.

The change is consistent with the new SAIS China initiative, which has, as one of its goals, the closer integration of the curricula of HNC with the other two SAIS campuses.

The new concentration is an ambitious endeavor for HNC, which presently focuses on the study of law, business and politics in Chinese and American cultures.

HNC and its various programs have a lot to gain from the upcoming changes to the curriculum, said Cai.

The addition of a new environment-focused concentration is a good fit for the Center’s interdisciplinary academic interests, according to the current faculty.

Preparations for implementing the concentration will go through a crucial step in January 2014 when a Joint Academic Committee will travel to Nanjing to plan for ERE’s arrival. During the visit, HNC American Co-director Dr. Jason Patent and his co-workers will present planning work to faculty and administrators from both SAIS and Nanjing University.

“We got the blessing of the JAC to go forth and make this concentration,” said Patent, who also noted past collaborations between the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering and Nanjing University’s School of the Environment.

Patent saw ERE as a way for students interested in the economics, politics and law of environmental practices and energy resources as helpful for developing skills and approaches for their careers.

“If solar panels are going to get built, you need human beings and organizations setting policy, creating incentives, funding mechanisms, all those kinds of things to create new technologies,” stated Patent.

Patent’s example is apt to the Hopkins–Nanjing Center, particularly when Chinese solar panel production continues to rise.

“If a student wants to have a future studying these kinds of issues from the standpoint of human institutions, that’s what this concentration can offer, and it’s going to offer them here in Nanjing,” said Patent.

When the JAC convenes in January, HNC’s next steps will be to hire a new international faculty member and to set curricular options and requirements.

To help in the search for a permanent professorship and the development of new courses, Deborah Bleviss, acting director of the ERE concentration at SAIS Washington will travel with the JAC in January.

In the meantime, HNC students are putting together an ERE practicum, similar in nature to the one offered at SAIS Washington. Cai said it was part of efforts to provide students the opportunity to gain practical experience through coursework. The practicum which involves students connecting with natural resources companies, environmental protection agencies, and NGOs aims to increase work experience and research opportunities for HNC students interested in the ERE concentration.

Such programs, he said, are also in line with efforts to develop career services at HNC to help students find work and internships. Given the diversity of natural resource companies and environmentally-oriented NGOs that operate in Nanjing and Jiangsu province, Cai was optimistic that the developments in the ERE curriculum would lead to future internship and research opportunities for students.

ERE is unlikely to be the only curriculum change, said Cai. By working with David Lampton, Director of SAIS China and the China Studies program in Washington, Cai is looking to the DC campus for more support and guidance for HNC’s curriculum development. The goal is to integrate HNC more closely with the rest of the SAIS community. These developments are also part of the SAIS China goal to increase the profile of HNC and attract more students.

Cai saw the differences in learning styles between American and Chinese students as another area for development at HNC. He said Chinese graduate programs push students to work more independently than is the tendency in American undergraduate programs. Often, this results in miscommunication, where both parties, students and professors, fail to understand each others needs and expectations.