Lisle, Illinois ~ Benedictine University faculty members are sharing new insights and global perspectives with their students gained from developing academic partnerships and the experiences they offer outside the United States.
Recently, Vince Gaddis, Ph.D., professor of History at Benedictine, was awarded a special grant from the AsiaNetwork, a consortium of more than 170 North American colleges focused on strengthening the role of Asian Studies within the framework of a liberal arts education.
As a recipient of the grant, Gaddis was one of eight professors from across the nation selected to attend the Faculty Enhancement Program, “Deepening Asian Studies in the Liberal Arts” on April 12 in Nashville, Tenn., and in June he will spend four weeks at an international training seminar in Vietnam.
Gaddis, who teaches a course on the Vietnam War, will study a number of Vietnamese issues – the economy, education, environment and ethnic relations – exploring Vietnam’s legacy of conflict, colonial imperialism and foray into capitalism. He will tour city markets, visit villages where ancient crafts of ceramics, silk-making and weaving are still produced, and meet scholars from several fields to get a sense of how the country is positioning itself as a significant Southeast Asian political and economic force.
“Vietnam is emerging as an economic powerhouse,” Gaddis said. “Many American manufacturers, such as Nike, and other businesses have begun operations in the country in recent years. As a country involved in many global markets, students need to understand how this new form of Asian authoritarian capitalism works and its implications for the future of democracy.”
Gaddis will also travel to several historical sites throughout the country, such as Halong Bay, the Cu Chi Tunnels, Cao Dai temple, MeKong Delta and various museums and villages.
The trip will help him present a more detailed and accurate portrayal of how the country has rebuilt since the end of the Vietnam War, Gaddis said.
“Students will benefit because the experience will allow me to update my current course, ‘Vietnam at War,’ and create a new course, “Contemporary Vietnam: 1975-Present,” Gaddis said.
Recognizing the increasing influence of Southeast Asia, Benedictine has expanded its academic programs in China and Vietnam. Today, more faculty members are taking advantage of those partnerships, leading students on special trips or coordinating other collaborative projects as part of their coursework.
In March, Chris Birks, assistant professor of Communication Arts, took students in his Global Journalism class to a Benedictine partner school, Dalian Nationalities University in Dalian, China, to study how news is reported in the communist-controlled country.
In the next two months, Tanesha Pittman, executive director of the Women’s Institute for Global Leadership, will accompany seven Master of Science (M.S.) in Leadership students on a tour of several business operations in Beijing and Xi’an, China, and Joel Ostrow, Ph.D., professor and Department of Political Science chair, will accompany students to Xi’an for an international Model United Nations conference.
In addition to these faculty-led trips, several Benedictine students have studied in China through a scholarship program run by the Chinese government.
Today, Asian students are enrolling in record numbers at Benedictine’s Lisle and Springfield campuses – equal to one-fourth of the University’s incoming freshmen class at its main Lisle campus. Through its partnerships with Chinese and Vietnamese universities, hundreds of students, unable to travel to the United States to study, are enrolled in programs in China and Vietnam.
Benedictine University is an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois and Mesa, Arizona. Founded in 1887, Benedictine provides 55 undergraduate majors and 15 graduate and four doctoral programs. Benedictine University is ranked No. 1 among the country's fastest-growing campuses between 2002-2012 in The Chronicle of Higher Education's list of private nonprofit doctoral institutions, and Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the fourth consecutive year in 2014. Benedictine University's Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain's Chicago Business as the sixth largest in the Chicago area in 2014.