ASIANetwork Freeman Student-Faculty fellowship awarded to Fairfield University professor $22,300 grant to fund study in China for three students

ASIANetwork Freeman Student-Faculty fellowship awarded to Fairfield University professor $22,300 grant to fund study in China for three students

Image: Danke Li China's resistance war against Japan during 1937-1945 has been the subject of plenty of research. However, very little of it has tried to understand or incorporate the viewpoints of women. Thanks to a 2005 ASIANetwork Freeman Student-Faculty Fellows grant, Danke Li, Ph.D., assistant professor of history at Fairfield University, will take three students to China to preserve the memories of some of the women who lived through that war. ASIANetwork, a consortium of more than 150 liberal arts institutions in North America, is supported by the Freeman Foundation for this program.

The Student-Faculty Fellows Program supports collaborative research in Asia for a faculty mentor and up to five students from an ASIANetwork institution. The primary aim of the program is to support student research in Asia under the close supervision of a teacher/scholar, with the expectation that the research will be shared within individual campus communities and ASIANetwork.

Dr. Li is a native of Chongqing, the wartime capital of China. Fairfield University students Sarah Howe '06, Mary Katherine Molteni '05 and Lauren Howard '05, will now join her for a three-week project this July that seeks to expand upon the extensive research Dr. Li has already completed and which has culminated in her manuscript "Women at War: A Textual and Oral History of Women during the Resistance War against Japan in the Chongqing Region, 1937-1945."

The group will interview and film local women who experienced the war, conduct library research to record historical materials and documents that reveal women's experiences during the war, and take field trips to visit and film various historical sites in the Chongquing region to document women's activities during the war.

Dr. Li hopes to produce a documentary with their findings. The trip will also give her more information to use in revising her manuscript.

"I really want them to use this opportunity to learn how to do research in China. To mingle with real Chinese society and culture," Dr. Li said. "This will give them a great jump-start to their careers."

That is exactly the opportunity that Howe, a history major with minors in classical studies and art history, has been ready to jump at since becoming interested in China at the age of five or six while watching a Sesame Street episode that featured the nation.

"I do not claim to be an expert on China by any definition of the word, but I feel that as a student of history, with the research skills and abilities that are essential to that field I can make a substantial contribution to the group's project," Howe, a resident of Grasylake, Ill., wrote in an essay she submitted for the project.

For Molteni, the project offers a chance to work on her interviewing and research skills before spending the year after her graduation in China. Molteni, who designed her own major in East Asian Studies in addition to pursuing an International Studies major, hopes to teach English in China next year.

"I studied in Beijing in fall of 2003 and I consider it the best semester of my college years," Saratoga Springs, N.Y. resident Molteni wrote in her essay. "After returning from Beijing, I continued studying Chinese and took a course in modern Chinese history, which I have become more and more interested in over the course of my study."

Lauren Howard, a resident of Wakefield, Mass., has also already studied in Beijing - and with the help of the Freeman-ASIA scholarship, which awarded her a $5000 grant to help defray the costs of that semester of study. Howard, an international studies major with minors in art history and Asian Studies, was excited about the opportunity to return to China.

"I feel honored and privileged to receive the opportunity to make a contribution to the women of China and the entire academic community," said Howard, who is a senior.

"The ASIANetwork grant has again given me the chance to enrich myself through a unique learning adventure."

"This is an example of the great opportunities that Fairfield can offer its students - the opportunity to travel to another country with a faculty expert, to learn more about that country, develop their research skills and enhance what they have learned in their language classes," said Alan Katz, director of the Asian Studies Program at Fairfield.

Dr. Li holds a bachelor's in Chinese history from Sichuan University in China and a master's in Ancient Greek and Roman History form Michigan State University. She earned a Ph.D. in history with a focus on modern Chinese history from the University of Michigan. She came to Fairfield University in 2000 and now teaches six courses on East Asia.

Dr. Li specializes in the study of modern China and gender inequality in education in rural China. Her articles have been published in Modern China, China: An International Journal, The China Review and the Journal of Field-Being. In addition to her forthcoming book on women in the Chongqing region during the war with Japan, Dr. Li is also at work on a book "Culture, Political Movement, and Revolution: The Formation of the Chinese Communist Movement in the Chongqing Region, 1890-1926."

"Dr. Danke Li brings a deep personal commitment to her work, as well as a scholar's understanding and objectivity, and a desire to open the hearts and minds of her students," said Dr. Orin Grossman, academic vice president of Fairfield University. This project brings together all the attributes which make her such a gifted scholar-teacher and I am delighted her ideas have been recognized and supported by the ASIANetwork Freeman Student-Faculty fellowship."

Posted On: 03-23-2005 10:03 AM

Volume: 37 Number: 198