Oberlin Alumni Magazine: Summer 2001 Vol.97 No.1
Feature Stories
When Worlds Meet
Visions of Oberlin
Safety Man
[cover story] Caught in the Act
Round Robin Takes Flight
Message from the President
Around Tappan Square
  Shansi: A Hidden Oberlin Jewel
by Carl W. Jacobson, Executive Director, Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association

Carl Jacobson talks with a farmer in Yudaohe, Shansi Province.
Those of us involved with the Shansi Memorial Association frequently receive questions from alumni or students who are mystified about what we do and where. Since President Nancy S. Dye's sabbatical visit to the Shansi program sites last fall, we have had more queries than usual. Some of the questions most frequently asked are these:
Many alumni are aware that there is a Shansi office somewhere on campus, know that it that has something to do with Asia, and that it has been around for a long time. The correct answer: Shansi today is a vibrant fabric of lives and experiences of people from both sides of the Pacific.

The Shansi Association sends young Oberlin alumni to Indonesia, India, Japan, and China, where they realize that the way of life they know as "normal" is not always thus. Shansi fellowships provide an opportunity for graduates to stay in their assigned country for up to two years. Obies learn the languages of their host countries, teach English to undergraduate students and faculty, volunteer with children in orphanages, work in HIV programs for prostitutes, and teach math to impoverished children.

With grants underwritten by Shansi, Oberlin faculty members and staff travel to Asia to lecture on botany, European history, and constitutional law. Shansi-sponsored winter term projects for students and faculty include the study of rainforest ecology in South China, the status of women in India, and volcanoes in Indonesia.

Asian scholars have come to Oberlin under Shansi's wing to complete work on a PhD examining American women authors, to conduct research in organic chemistry, and to teach a class on postcolonial literary criticism. Visiting professors arrive here to teach and share insights about what's going on in their countries culturally and politically.
Yes, the cultural learning goes both ways. Shansi fellows report that they experience dramatic personal growth, and many have been prompted to go on to study law, medicine, public health, social work, community activism, and the environment, and to careers in international-exchange administration. Visiting scholars from Asia return to their own institutions invigorated by new insights and often take on leadership roles in educational innovation.
Visiting Professor Rajeswari Sundar Rajan, teaching about the "new" Indian woman.
In China the program is at Yunnan University in the southwest and at Shanxi Agricultural University near Beijing. With 8,000 students, Yunnan offers graduate programs and PhD tracks and has been named one of the top 100 universities in

China by the Ministry of Education. There are four Shansi fellows teaching there this year. Shanxi Agricultural University is on the site of the Ming Hsien schools founded in Taigu in Shanxi Province by Oberlin alumni, and is the only agricultural school in China actually located in the countryside. Three Shansi fellows taught there this past year.

In India Shansi is affiliated with Lady Doak College and the American College in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. Lady Doak is one of the top-ranking women's colleges in the southern region of the country, serving students who are encouraged to take women's studies courses focusing on the issues facing women in India today. Two fellows taught there this past year.

The American College has been awarded five stars by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council and since January 1988 has been recognized as a study center for the Indira Ghandi National Open University. In 1990 the college began a teaching program in applied science called Jivana
Jyoyhi, with a diploma course in computer skills for physically disabled students. One of the two lecturers in spoken English last year was Tom Pruiksma, whose recollections about his experience there appear below.

Shansi's exchange program with Gadjah Mada University in Java, Indonesia, has operated continuously since 1972. Throughout the political and economic crisis there, Shansi has monitored the situation while keeping four Shansi fellows on site to teach English to younger faculty members hoping to go abroad to earn higher degrees. They work, too, in the language program within the Faculty of Arts, Sastra, teaching English and other courses. One of the fellows there last year taught English to the Sultan of Yogyakarta, Hamengkubuwono X.

And, in Japan, Shansi is affiliated with Obirin University in Machida, on the outskirts of Tokyo, with three Shansi fellows in the English language program. *
Shansi is an independent charitable foundation now in its 94th year. It is one of the oldest educational exchange institutions in the United States, with every intention of continuing the Asian collaboration as long as there is an Oberlin College.
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