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New Director of the Chinese Language Program Jennifer L. C. Liu has named fostering a greater sense of community among associated faculty members as her major priority since taking the helm of the program this fall.
Liu’s predecessor Shengli Feng, who departed last May for a tenure-track position at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, built the program into one of the nation’s most distinguished.
“This program has always had great teachers, but since [Feng] left many of them have felt like they don’t have any organized channels to communicate,” she said. “I have tried to create more venues for our instructors to discuss overall course objectives and to discuss student progress.”
In addition to planning a revamp of the program website, Liu created a program-wide newsletter as a central means to convey information to faculty members.
Calling upon her nineteen years of experience at Indiana University, Liu said she also hopes to extend the cohesion among faculty members to improve student satisfaction within the program.
“In a few years all of our material will be more systematic,” Liu said.
Liu, whose research interests lie primarily in language pedagogy, would also like to put more emphasis on students’ oral and written communication abilities. Proposed changes include the restructuring of course assignments for upper-level students to encourage interaction with Chinese scholars or other fluent students.
“I would like to increase the number of authentic opportunities that students have to practice their language skills,” she said.
In spite of concerns that arose last spring as a result of a financial landscape of reduced hiring and salary freezes, Liu was chosen to fill Feng’s vacated post.
At the time of his departure, East Asian Languages and Civilization Department Chair Wilt Idema acknowledged that it was “extremely important” that this position be filled for the University’s Chinese language offerings.
Chinese language preceptor Qiu Yu Wang, who has worked with both Liu and Feng as an introductory-level course head, acknowledged that Feng’s departure was a great loss to Harvard. However, Wang commended the new director for her vision for the program.
“[Feng] was a great loss for the program, but it is great to have a new competent director to bring this program to a new stage,” she said. “[Liu] has a lot of ideas and is someone that I am very confident will bring them to fruition.”
Liu said that she was inspired to make these changes from the problems that she encountered as program head at Indiana University.
In the meantime, however, she acknowledges that one of the most difficult aspects of her transition has been adjusting to her new life outside of the office.
“The greatest difference [from my previous position] has been the life aspect,” she said. “Before, it took me ten minutes to get to work, but the traffic is horrible here.”
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