China Faculty Handbook
All China Program courses are delivered in English, approved by the Chinese Ministry of Education, and accredited by Middle States Commission of Higher Education. Students who graduate from Stevens programs in China receive the same degree awarded those who earn their masters in the US.
Academically, Stevens’ programs in China parallel those delivered on campus in Hoboken and at corporate sites in New Jersey and elsewhere. They are under the arm of Stevens’ academic schools and are run by the same directors as those on campus. Approved by Stevens’ Graduate Curriculum Committee, they are managed under the umbrella of Stevens China Group, with representatives from Stevens’ academic schools and staff. Stevens Vice President of University Enrollment Services and the Institute’s Dean of Professional Education manage relationships with our partner schools in China.
A number of students who graduated from Stevens’ programs are now PhD candidates in Hoboken. Many others are employed by premier international and local companies in China—AIG, Digital China, Emerson, Frost & Sullivan, Huawei, Intel, and Siemens, and many others.
Young Chinese Students
Faculty who have taught in China report that our Chinese students are as qualified as students in Hoboken. Some say that they are often superior. A few are outstanding. While many speak and write English exceedingly well for students who have never been abroad, others require encouragement and practice to hone their English-language facility.
Since traditional Chinese pedagogical practice—starting from elementary school through university—does not commonly encourage discussion, a good number of our Chinese students tend to be reticent. Stevens faculty in China sometimes find it difficult to engage Chinese students in discussion. Chinese students tend to respond more when technical content is covered; discussions of managerial and other non-technical issues, requiring more complex responses, can be more difficult.
To encourage engaged discussion, Stevens’ faculty have introduced a number of effective strategies. One instructor, for example, permits his students to hold small discussion groups in Mandarin to give them more latitude. Afterwards, a team captain reports on their conclusions in English. Another exploits digital photography, taking pictures of his students and posting them with their English names on his class website. To build rapport, he invites three to four students at a time to meet with him during “Tea with Your Professor” sessions after class. Others recommend occasional celebrations to stimulate esprit. All recommend investing time in building strong relationships with Chinese students, staff, and faculty to cement trust and confidence over time.
In designing homework assignments and exercises, keep in mind that some of your Chinese students may not have access to books and periodicals easily available to your students in the U.S. Many have limited budgets with little discretionary income. Even if some have funds, Chinese bookstores and libraries are not well stocked with a wide choice covering class topics. Design your course so that students can easily find current newspaper articles or references. Distributing printouts or photocopies in class is a good alternative.
Students who work full-time at the China Development Bank at Central University of Finance and Economics, one of Stevens’ partner schools in China, often find it difficult to keep pace with graduate material owing to demands at work. Many travel extensively; others are required to be on duty for long hours. Recognizing that that classwork may suffer, one Stevens’ faculty member encourages bank employees in his class to work together in teams to share their academic load.
While graduate courses on campus run for 14-15 weeks, you are likely to teach your course in China intensively for only three to five weeks, compressing your curriculum into a brief period with frequent classroom engagements. Your program director will outline your academic and other responsibilities as well as your compensation. Since Stevens offers several programs in China and since some courses may be delivered in parallel, you may be asked to teach your course in China at different partner schools or in different programs at the same university while you are in China. Because Stevens’ programs in China are accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, you provide the same curriculum at the same high standard delivered in Hoboken. You are required to teach your course in China at the same high level as you would in the US.
Your classes in China are delivered to Stevens’ students who happen to be native Chinese. Stevens’ partner schools provide you with classroom and other facilities on their campuses. Frequently, students from partner schools find that Stevens’ curriculum and teaching methods offer approaches not commonly available to them at their home institution. On a space-available basis, as well as acknowledging demands on your own time, you are encouraged to welcome students who are enrolled in our partner schools as occasional auditors. You may also be asked from time to time to deliver lectures to partner-school faculty and students. Here, too, you are free to accept as your time and inclination permit.
Just as in the US, cheating can be very distressing. It is recommended that you set strict rules about cheating and that you are alert to its possibility. You may find some students copy material directly from textbooks or the Internet without crediting sources. It is highly recommended that you set your expectations in your first class and reiterate them throughout the course. If discovered, you must confront cheating directly and immediately. When proctoring exams, it is wise to separate students widely and keep your attention on them as much as possible. Do not permit talking or other forms of communication among students during exams. In team assignments, be vigilant about sharing without permission. It is highly recommended that you place your academic and other materials in a secure laptop or briefcase and that you not allow important documents to be left casually about.
Delivering Online Courses
If you teach online, you must acquire knowledge of WebCT, the school’s asynchronous learning platform, used in WebCampus graduate courses. Use of Interwise, a voice-over-IP mode of delivering PowerPoint slides with voice-over lectures in real-time, is highly recommended, especially for Chinese students who find listening to recorded lectures exceedingly helpful in understanding the material and in reviewing content. You are also encouraged to learn how to exploit the benefits of Interwise in your Chinese classes. Interwise can also be used to share your lectures with Chinese faculty at our partner schools. WebCT is in transition and may soon provide easier access to students in China. Your responsibilities as an online instructor in Chinese classes are the same as those required of all WebCampus faculty, including signing an online instructor agreement. Honored with two prestigious prizes from the Sloan Foundation as the “best online learning school” and from the US Distance Learning Association for best practices, Stevens’ WebCampus unit has delivered graduate courses to more than 10,000 students in more than 40 countries worldwide.
Depending on which school you are assigned and also who is in charge, partner-school support for our faculty various widely. Some who have taught in China have found they were able to navigate Chinese university systems successfully; while others have been less pleased with arrangements. Occasionally, you may be faced with last-minute changes in classroom assignments or schedules without being informed. Depending on arrangements, you may be assigned a teaching assistant who will help you find your way as well as provide assistance with your students. At Beijing Institute of Technology, you have access to a Stevens’ printer.
Some faculty have found that student course evaluation forms are not distributed routinely to our Chinese students. Since Stevens relies on these to provide continuous improvement for course content and more effective delivery, you are urged to make sure that course evaluation forms for your classes are distributed faithfully before the end of each semester. Please collect them diligently.
Recognizing Stevens’ quality graduate programs in China as well as its award-winning WebCampus online learning, IBM has awarded Stevens a pilot agreement to assess and counsel key IBM technical staff in China. Negotiations are now underway with other Fortune 500 Companies operating in China to provide them with education and training. A China Advisory Council, with senior executives from Fortune 500 and other companies operating in China—such as IBM, Lucent, Microsoft, Citigroup, Intel, Honeywell, and Sun—meets every year in Beijing and offers advice on education and corporate training in China. It is led by the Dean of Professional Education. If you are in China during one of these meetings, you will be invited to attend.
Living In China
Following several years and dozens of courses delivered in China, most Stevens’ faculty find that their interaction with students as well as with partner-school faculty very exciting and intellectually rewarding. Many find that their engagement with Chinese culture extraordinary. Most Stevens' faculty who have taught in China return eagerly for additional assignments. Still, living largely by yourself and not speaking Mandarin can be alienating and lonely. Some faculty have found ways to make their lives less isolated by accessing US newspapers and radio programs on the web, by e-mailing friends, and using web-based phone systems to keep in touch with friends and family at low cost.
You must apply for a visa to enter China. If you go online at the New York Consulate, you will find information on how to apply, including fees and a downloadable application form. You will not be able to acquire a Chinese visa if your US passport is scheduled to expire in the next six months. In that case, you must first apply for a new US passport. It is suggested that you apply for a tourist visa since other types of visas require additional, unnecessary documentation. If you expect to return to China within a short time, it’s best to apply for a double entry visa, allowing you to return to China again without applying for another visa for your second entry. The local Chinese Consulate is in midtown Manhattan on West 42nd Street at 11th Avenue, making it convenient for you to submit your application in person and pick it up there as well after paying your fee. Alternatively, you may wish to use one of the visa services found on Google.
Weather, pollution, and what to pack
Weather conditions in Beijing are quite similar to what you normally experience in the New York area, except that winters can be particularly raw and summers can be uncomfortably hot. Pollution in big cities can be serious with dark, smog-filled days. If you are sensitive to poor air quality, it’s wise to bring eye solutions and effective skin products. Pack clothes that you would normally wear in the US. Take along a set of dress clothes for more formal occasions. In summer, Chinese men wear short-sleeved shirts without ties or jackets. It is common for visitors to follow this style.
Formal and informal occasions
As a faculty member from a visiting university, you may also be invited to join your host at a formal meal where you will be seated at the table in a defined location, designated by cultural norms, usually on the right-hand side of your host. At these “banquets,” you may be asked what you would like to drink. Do not hesitate to ask for wine or beer, since your host will not order alcohol unless his guest requests it. Your host may be eager to order alcohol for himself and his party, but out of politeness, will not order it unless you ask. Commonly, such meals are served at large, round tables, set with a lazy-Susan on which Chinese delicacies are served. Your host may be the first to taste, while others wait, or you will be invited to eat first. If you do not know how to use chopsticks, you may eat with Western silverware, usually provided near your plate. It’s wise to eat slowly and modestly, taking just a bite or two from plates circulating. You will find that the number and variety of foods tend to be large at such meals. Often, they last for more than an hour with new delicacies being served continuously. While such meals represent a formal way of building comradely relations, you may also be invited to join partner-school faculty and students at other, less formal occasions where cultural differences may not be as obvious.
Bargaining is common in markets and in some shops and, surprisingly, even in some department stores. It is usual for vendors or shopkeepers to mention a price for an item that can be as high as twice what that they expect the customer to pay after haggling. At first, Westerners may be discomfited, but as they become accustomed to practice, they can find it exciting and engaging. Some Chinese may behave more aggressively than you may be used to in the West, especially in crowded situations, waiting for transportation, or impatiently waiting in line at shops.
Hotel and other accommodations
A variety of accommodations are available quite inexpensively at nearby locations or directly at hotels on partner-school campuses. Some Stevens’ faculty have been housed in relatively large, comfortable rooms with excellent broadband access, while others have found their accommodations small and cramped without air conditioning. At on-campus hotels, concierge and other service employees may not commonly speak English. The Beijing Friendship Hotel, located near both Stevens’ partner schools in Beijing, offers better accommodations, equivalent to modest hotels in the West, with English-speaking service personnel. The Friendship Hotel is somewhat more expensive than accommodations on campus at partner schools, but compared with rates elsewhere, it is still relatively inexpensive. It offers excellent broadband access at lower rates than at hotels on campus. Some faculty have found apartment-style accommodation also at fairly modest cost. Your hotel, meals, and travel expenses are reimbursed by Stevens. Please remember to keep your receipts for your expense report.
Telephone and computers
Telephone service to the US is expensive. Some US carriers offer international service to China but this service, too, can be expensive. If you take your cell phone with you, do not assume it will work in China. Even if your phone works in China, dialing from the country to connect through your US number can be equally prohibitive. Local Chinese phones can be purchased cheaply and service is affordable but is limited to calls made within the country only. Broadband access is available and, depending on where you connect, it can be relatively inexpensive. Some faculty make calls to the US using voice-over-IP services, such as Skype, at little cost.
Food is remarkably inexpensive at universities in China. Three meals can run as little as $1 a day. Snacks and other items can be found at several shops on campus and in the neighborhood. Some faculty who teach in China stock up on food they find more appealing than what is available on campus or elsewhere locally. Others bring portable coffee makers and other small cooking appliances to make modest meals for themselves in their rooms. For faculty who are adventurous or already have a taste for Asian cuisine, Chinese food can be extraordinarily good.
Since water quality is not as high as in the West, it’s wise to use water from the tap for washing only. Bottled water is highly recommended for drinking. Most hotels and restaurants supply them without charge or for a nominal fee. It’s also best not to eat raw fruits without peeling their skins and it’s recommended that you eat only cooked vegetables. Avoid raw salad greens and other raw vegetable salads.
Taxis are quite inexpensive by Western standards and, if you’re up to it, public transportation in and around Beijing and other large cities can be culturally enlightening and often convenient. Since most taxi drivers and personnel on buses, subways, and trains rarely speak English, it’s wise to carry a card or other written message with your hotel name and address and your destination in Chinese to hand to the driver. Local air transportation is also quite inexpensive and, if you have the time while you’re in China, it’s a good idea to take side trips to noteworthy locations. Consult standard travel guides for historical, cultural, or other sightseeing places that may appeal to you. Your concierge at hotels where the staff speaks English may be able to help you with flights and reservations and other suggestions. Safety is not usually a concern, but as anywhere else in the world, it’s wise to be alert, especially in relatively dark, remote areas.
Few Western-style toilets are located in public restrooms or on campus. Chinese toilets are generally porcelain facilities fixed to the floor of your stall. Western toilets are more often found in central Beijing, Shanghai, or other large cities. Toilet paper may not be found in public restrooms. It is wise to carry toilet paper or tissues with you as well as Handy Wipes.
Chinese tend to be very courteous and accommodating. If you are invited to join senior staff and faculty at relatively formal occasions, you are likely to receive a gift from your host. It is suggested that you come prepared with a number of modest, gift-wrapped items—Stevens’ tee shirts or caps, pens with Stevens’ logo, books about the US, among other tokens—to present to your hosts.
To learn more about Chinese culture, it may be useful to read travel guides or more serious books on ancient and contemporary Chinese history.
Your Program Director is your principal Stevens contact. Your Program Director will also provide you with contacts at our partner university in China. For WebCampus courses, contact Robert Zotti at email@example.com. If you are in need of medical attention or help with emergencies, it’s best to contact your counterpart at our partner university.