Visiting Scholar Reflects on Mansfield University

MANSFIELD, PA –  Mansfield University hosts one or two visiting scholars per year from China. Scholars come from MU partner universities, and they stay at MU for six months while conducting research. The program is coordinated by Marie Domenech, Director of the Mansfield University Center for International Cooperation and Exchange, and Dr. Brad Lint, Associate Professor of English and US-China Exchange Coordinator. This academic year, MU hosted two visiting scholars.

The MU Art Department hosted Dr. Gloria Jixian Wu, a professor of film at Tianjin University of Science and Technology. Dr. Wu joined art department events and even contributed original work to the annual Faculty Exhibition. She also traveled across the United States and regularly joined MU art faculty on outings, for example experiencing “Black Friday” at Costco in Syracuse with Dr. Martha Whitehouse, helping decorate Dr. Martha Campbell’s Christmas tree, and joining Dr. Michelle Lockwood for dinner and theatre at Hamilton-Gibson. Unfortunately, Dr. Wu had to return to China early to care for a sick relative and was unable to complete her program.

The MU Geosciences Department hosted Dr. Xiaochen Zhao, a professor of geology at Xi’an University of Science and Technology specializing in basin analysis, tectonics, and lithogeochemistry. While at MU, Dr. Zhao wrote five research articles, two of which have already been accepted for publication in peer-reviewed scholarly journals. He also spent time traveling and visited Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York City, Niagara Falls, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, Washington DC, Yellowstone National Park, and Yosemite National Park. He also joined Geoscience Club activities and regularly met geosciences faculty for lunch and dinner. Dr. Zhao’s six-month program ended in February, and Interim President Peter Fackler presented him with a certificate of completion. At the end of his program, Dr. Zhao penned the following reflection on his time at Mansfield University.

From August 2018 through February 2019, I had the honor and privilege of being a visiting scholar at Mansfield University. I would like to thank Mansfield University, Xi’an University of Science and Technology (XUST), and the China Center for International Education Exchange (CCIEE) for providing me with this precious opportunity. I would also like to share my reactions to American campus life and some of the cultural differences I observed during my time at Mansfield University.

When I first applied to the Sino-American Cooperation on Higher Education and Professional Development (CHEPD) Program, the organization provided a list of American universities, and Mansfield University attracted me most because of our similar majors as well as MU’s rich history, modern campus facilities, and colorful campus life. 

Mansfield University is located in a small but beautiful town surrounded by rolling hills. It was founded in 1857, showing the University’s longstanding commitment to serving students in Pennsylvania and beyond. The reddish-orange glow of MU’s buildings feels warm and comfortable. Mansfield University offers nineteen undergraduate degree programs with over forty concentrations, and I was fortunate to join the Department of Geosciences.

Mansfield University’s creed is based on character, scholarship, culture, and service, and during my time at MU, I saw faculty, administration, staff, and students alike live up to those ideals. 

I observed many MU classes, including Physical Geology, Petrology, Sedimentology, Oil & Gas Geology, Structure Geology, and classes in other majors. Most classes meet two or three times a week for an hour or so, which is different from China. MU classes are also small, with an average class size of 25, whereas classes at my university might have 80 or more. Based on my observations, small-class teaching in American is very effective and successful because faculty can pay more attention to all students, get to know them, and have time to communicate and answer questions. There is heavy pressure on faculty and students due to all the preparation, homework, quizzes, exams, and papers. However, the small class size definitely helps students to truly acquire knowledge, master professional skills, and enhance cognitive ability in different majors.

In addition to academic studies, Mansfield University promotes personal development, leadership skills, and team building to help students lay a solid foundation for future careers. For instance, there are many student organizations at MU, including the Geosciences Club, Nerf Club, Kayak Club, History Club, and so on. Students can choose any of these based on their interests. These social activities provide excellent opportunities for students to improve teamwork and leadership skills. Furthermore, there are also many campus-wide activities, such as music concerts, basketball and football games, etc. All of these make students’ campus life colorful and deeply meaningful. To provide better services for students, Mansfield University has excellent facilities and technological resources, including online research databases, thousands of books in North Hall library, modern recreational facilities, and a wide variety of fitness equipment in the Kelchner Fitness Center and Decker Gym. All of these resources are convenient and help students to comfortably balance their academic and personal lives.

The faculty and staff here are also very enthusiastic and friendly. When I needed help, they always tried their best. For instance, my mentor, Dr. Lee Stocks, and Dr. Brad Lint helped me to polish my papers. Dr. Christopher Kopf gave me a lot of books related to my major. Art faculty also invited me to their home for Christmas dinner. Marie Domenech also took excellent care of me and took me on several excursions. 

I know it has only been six months, but Mansfield University feels like a second home to me. I really appreciate everything everyone has done for me. I hope the friendship between our two countries will continue to grow and the relationship between our universities will develop and prosper in the future.