Professor receives Fulbright
Art Svenson Receives Fulbright Award
Government Professor Art Svenson is headed to China in early February, where he will spend the next five months teaching American government and constitutional law to Chinese students at Renmin University in Beijing.
Svenson, David Boies Endowed Chair of the Government Department at the University, has been awarded a Fulbright Scholar grant to lecture at Renmin University, the “People’s University,” originally established by Chairman Mau in 1949. He is one of approximately 1,100 American faculty members who will teach abroad through the Fulbright Scholar Program this year.
This will not be Svenson’s first time in China. He and his wife Nancy Svenson, associate vice president of enrollment management at the University, have visited the country on two previous occasions to adopt their daughters, Cece in 2003 and Ellie in 2005.
“I am going to China for two reasons,” Svenson said. “One is seven and one is eight. I want my children who are both adopted to understand the culture, the history, and the life of China.”
Providing this opportunity for his daughters was his “prime mover” in applying for the Fulbright.
“My girls love this country as much as anybody. This is their home. But I want them to appreciate where they come from.” While his primary motives are personal, Svenson expects to gain new insight from teaching principles of American government in China.
“Professionally, I am interested in teaching American constitutional law in a country so dramatically different from ours.” He said he expects that teaching in China will be “a fabulous opportunity to talk about our Constitution with students who probably don’t know much about it” or have different perspectives than his Redlands students.
At Redlands, many of his classes are discussion driven, and the classes he teaches in China may be different. “I think students will attempt to memorize what I say rather than challenge what I say. I love the challenge of my Redlands classes. I don’t want my students to sit and take notes and be quiet. I want them to engage in a discussion.
“I can only imagine that in China I will get a whole new set of questions,” he said. “I hope to come back with a new understanding of American politics because I will have been working with these new questions. It will be enormously beneficial.”
Svenson is also a professional violinist and has been offered a seat in the Renmin University Orchestra. While he does not speak much Chinese, “if music is an international language, I will sit down and be able to communicate with everyone through my violin,” he said.
The Fulbright grant also guarantees Svenson the opportunity to give at least five guest lectures at other universities throughout China. His lectures will involve the same hot-button ideas as his classrooms.
The Chinese government has arranged for Svenson and his family to live in an apartment close to the university where he will be teaching. He has enrolled his children in an international school in Beijing. While his family will miss Redlands, “everyone is very excited. All of us have an adventurous spirit in us, so we all want to go. My kids love their schools and their lives in Redlands, but they are still so excited.” They will return in early June, “get back into the Redlands routine we all love, and be better for it.”
As an academic adviser, Svenson said he always advises his students to spend a semester abroad. In his opinion, “to live and breathe the life of another country is a classroom. I am practicing what I preach,” he said.
The Fulbright Scholar Program began in 1946 and is an international exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government which aims to increase contact and understanding between Americans and people around the world.