Harrington School develops collaborative relationship with universities in China

By Emma Rohnstock

This semester, the Harrington School of Communication and Media welcomed visitors from Shanghai Polytechnic University (SSPU) in China. The visit signaled a growing partnership between the Harrington School and SSPU led by Drs. Yinijao Ye and Norbert Mundorf. Ye and Mundorf visited SSPU on a Carnegie International Grant last spring.

There are many exciting facets of this new relationship including potential research and teaching collaborations. Harrington School faculty may soon have the opportunity to teach at SSPU during the summer months or on sabbatical. The universities are also discussing the development of a student exchange program, which would bring SSPU students to URI to take public relations and communication studies courses. These classes will help the SSPU students gain new knowledge and skills that they could apply to their work in China. Faculty from both universities have discussed conducting joint research. For example, Dr. Li Zhou will collaborate with Professors Ye and Mundorf to study social media use among Chinese people and how it impacts public opinion and political discourse.

Throughout this upcoming school year, Harrington School faculty will host at least five scholars from various universities in China.

One of the core activities of this teaching collaborative revolves around online, international debates. Dr. Chai Kim and his colleagues originated the e-mail debate as a teaching approach in which there is an exchange of ideas on a topic between individuals or groups via e-mail. Topics are typically culturally sensitive and expected to encourage a lively discussion.

Since 1995, Mundorf and his students have pursued these debate on an annual basis. Over the years, the debates have adapted to technological advancements. Now, they will incorporate social media as well, specifically, the popular Chinese online platform, WeChat.

Visiting Scholars
From left to right: Visiting Scholars Xiaolin Zhang, Xiuhong Wang, and Junping Lu of Shanghai Polytechnic University and Nancy Stricklin, Assistant to the Provost for Global Strategies and Academic Partnerships at URI.

“We have received encouraging feedback from URI students based on debates conducted in the past, and are incorporating suggestions for improvement,” said Mundorf. “Several URI classes will participate next Fall and Spring in the project with counterparts at the four partner campuses we visited.”

Dr. Mundorf will incorporate new versions of these debates for the first time in a new course, Environmental Communication: Local & Global, approved under URI’s new General Education program.

(Dr. Mundorf contributed to this article)