PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University and China’s Yunnan University will work together to develop western China’s first graduate program that specializes in American studies.

The two universities will collaborate to develop the curriculum for an interdisciplinary American studies master’s program designed for western Chinese students, said Paul Hirt, project director and WSU professor of history.

The program will emphasize American society, culture, law, politics and the comparative study of the Chinese and U.S. Wests. It will also add to the material resources of the existing YNU American Studies Resource Center and expand classroom teaching technologies by providing computers, overhead projectors, and a television and VCR.

The western China project follows a similar four-year American studies program Hirt developed in Ukraine.

“This project was fascinating and successful, and it stimulated my interest in pursuing more of this kind of international collaborative curriculum work,” he said.

His previous experience working with project co-director Baodi Zhou made the decision to develop the program in western China an easy one.

“We know each other well from her studies in the history department, and we talked about a possible collaboration like this before she left,” Hirt said.

Zhou, who earned a doctoral degree at WSU in 1999 as an international exchange student, is an American history major and has been teaching English as a second language at YNU for nearly two decades, he said.

Hirt will make the first trip to YNU this fall to purchase project-related equipment and arrange Internet service.

“So far, we are still at the stage of blackboard and chalk,” Zhou said.

While the new classroom equipment is essential, YNU will benefit most from the strengthened teaching and research skills of it collaborating faculty.

“Most of our faculty members in the English department are fluent in English, but they lack sufficient knowledge to offer a comprehensive American studies curriculum,” she said.

“This project will help enormously by providing the opportunity for eight of our faculty members to study at WSU for a whole semester and by providing books and other library resources and teaching technologies,” Zhou said.

The internationalization of the American Studies Program will develop an “international track” for foreign students while enhancing such WSU programs as world civilizations, Asian studies and Chinese language. It also will increase campus visibility to international programs and promote greater cross-disciplinary cooperation.

International students currently make up about 25 percent of WSU’s American Studies Program applicants, with numbers increasing each year, Hirt said.

The University of Idaho School of Law will participate by providing expertise in the history of legal institutions in America.

YNU’s new American Studies graduate degree and WSU’s new international track in American Studies supports long-term curriculum objectives for both universities. It also will better prepare educators in both countries for the future internationalization of economies and political systems, said organizers.

The program is funded by a one-time $120,000 grant from the U.S. Dept. of State, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Educational Partnerships Program. The three-year grant will begin in September.

The state department assistance will support 20 exchanges between the two universities during the three years, providing 24 weeks of guest lectures at YNU by WSU faculty, as well as 36 cumulative months of research time for YNU faculty at WSU.

For more information, contact Hirt at (509) 335-4883 or e-mail to phirt@wsu.edu.