Academics are the heart of Alliance study abroad programs. From the foundations of program design and development, the Alliance seeks to identify what is unique, timely, and intellectually compelling about each program location, and to build a curriculum for each program site that is suited to it.
The Alliance also strives to build curricula that look beyond the national, regional, and local content, that build bridges to global and international currents. By doing so, Alliance programs seek to appeal both to students who have specific regional interests and to those who wish to study global issues within a particular context, for whom China and India can serve as fascinating laboratories for enriching classroom-based study in areas such as development, economics and nationalism, religion, ethnicity, and identity, urbanization, environment, and public health, or contemporary (and traditional) arts, music, and popular culture.
To this end, Alliance programs also involve some form of field-based study. Whether it is a capstone project, an internship, an artisanal apprenticeship, a public health practicum, directed research, or a documentary film, field-based study with the Alliance builds upon a foundation of classroom-based learning, but then takes that learning outside the classroom and into the host context. In this way, theory is complexified, assumptions are questioned, and conclusions are nuanced. There is nothing quite like structured, guided, academically-supervised field-based study to allow undergraduates to test their knowledge, to interrogate and sometimes undermine it, and to return home with the intellectual sophistication that will inform the next steps of their academic or professional career.
If our academics can meet these ends, then we are fulfilling our vision. While the Alliance has steadfastly sought to meet these goals since its inception, we are also an organization that is nimble, dynamic, and constantly evolving—as areas of scholarly attention or institutional priorities in the U.S. develop, as world events and global trends unfold, and as our host countries themselves undergo times of unprecedented change, our curriculum and methods will change to better meet them. Please do not hesitate to engage us in dialogue about your own evolving institutional and research interests—or the changing needs and interests of your students—and we will welcome the opportunity to continue to refine and enhance our academic offerings.
Academic integrity—in its broadest possible meaning—drives and informs our work as an organization and the work that we expect of our students.
It may refer to the policy of academic integrity to which we require all of our students to adhere. It may also refer to our guidelines for research involving human subjects. It extends to our attendance policy that is as oriented to respect for our teaching faculty as it is to grading and disciplinary protocols.
Academic integrity, for us, also refers to the standards to which we hold ourselves in developing our own curricula. Our Chinese language pedagogy, for example, while informed by and in dialogue with the best practices in the field, is uniquely our own, developed and implemented by a dedicated China-based Language Director and team of instructors. Our internship guidelines, too seek to ensure that if an internship is being granted academic credit, then it is truly academic in nature, with the appropriate faculty supervision, evaluation, associated reading and thoughtful analysis. Even innovative elements of our programs such as the documentary film component seek to go beyond the basics of consideration to human subjects and seek to sensitize students to the ethics, politics, power dynamics, and ultimate responsibility of being behind a camera.
Faculty Selection and Training
While aiming for academics of the highest quality, we also seek to respect the pedagogical styles and traditions of our host countries, and ask our students to expect to learn in different ways than what they may be accustomed to on their home campuses.
At the same time, we ask our faculty to understand that our sending institutions must be confident in our delivery of academic content in order to be able to provide credit for their students’ academic work abroad. Hence our insistence on adherence to a designated minimum of contact hours commensurate with U.S. standards, full written syllabi, designated readings, explicit evaluation criteria, and a commitment to teaching according to the syllabus, where those might not be practices common in Chinese or Indian universities.
In most cases, our faculty will have had some—if not extensive—exposure to teaching and research outside of China and India, usually in Europe or the U.S., or they may be expatriates themselves. Our primary criteria for non-language faculty, beyond subject matter expertise and the requisite academic credentials, are sufficient command of English in order to be able to communicate effectively with our students, a willingness to meet us on requirements of syllabi and content delivery, and an openness to engaging our students in discussion about (and beyond) the subject matter of their courses. Most of our faculty hold full-time teaching positions at local universities, and teach with us out of a genuine commitment to the ideals of international education.
Chinese language faculty undergo extensive training in Alliance teaching methods. Though this is generally overseen and conducted by our China-based Language Director, we have also obtained funding from the U.S. Department of State in the context of our administration of its Critical Language Scholarship to bring our Chinese teachers to the U.S. for training with leaders in the field, and have brought U.S. faculty to China, as well, to provide our faculty with the very best training in language pedagogy.