Duke faculty prepare for Chinese campus courses

Sep. 29, 2013 @ 10:49 PM

Since the Chinese Ministry of Education formally approved Duke’s new Kunshan campus this month, Duke is busy filling its faculty roster and honing the approved academic programs heading to China in fall 2014.

Duke Kunshan University, a partnership with China’s Wuhan University located on 200 acres outside of Shanghai, will be home to about 50 faculty members at its start, and the campus will offer master’s degree programs in global health and management studies, as well as non-degree academic programs.

A proposed degree in medical physics is still being considered by faculty, according to Nora Bynum, vice provost for DKU and China Initiatives. Duke first announced a call for DKU program proposals in December of last year.

However, setting up academics on a new campus hasn’t come without its controversies – Faculty worries about maintaining academic freedom in a Communist nation and construction delays due to quality concerns have slowed its overall progress.

Bynum said Duke will look first at internal candidates to teach overseas, and as the program grows, it will add more permanent, full-time DKU faculty members. But most teaching positions will bring already established Duke faculty to China for just a semester.

Only 8 percent of Duke’s undergraduate population is from another country, and 23 percent of the university’s graduate and professional students are considered “international.”

But DKU is preparing for much higher international numbers in its classrooms.

The Duke Global Health Institute just hired two new faculty members to give direction to its master of science in global health program at DKU. Keith Dear was brought on board as a research professor of global health and faculty director of the DKU master’s program. He came from Australian National University and his research focus is global environmental health and air quality.  

Jim Zhang, formerly from the University of Southern California, also was hired as a professor of global and environmental health of Duke GHI. He has studied air quality during and following the Beijing Olympics, and he also will teach in the DKU master’s program starting next fall.

Randy Kramer, DGHI’s associate director, said the master’s program will be tailored after what they already offer in Durham. The program is already in its fourth year at Duke proper, and DKU’s will have the same curriculum and thesis requirements.

“The only difference is we’re looking at a little different profile of students,” Kramer said, adding he expects 50 percent of the student pool to be from China and the other half from around the world.

He said they’re recruiting five new faculty members who will be based at DKU, sending three or four faculty members temporarily from Durham, and possibly pulling in two adjunct faculty members from nearby universities in Shanghai.

On GHI’s employment page, the institute is looking for two professors of the practice of global health to teach at both the undergraduate and graduate levels at Kunshan and an associate director for the DKU master’s program. That person will build and manage the day-to-day operations and will lead efforts in marketing and recruitment.  

GHI also will start the new Global Health Research Center at Duke Kunshan University, and Duke faculty will travel back and forth to conduct research. Kramer said they will focus on chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer - The institute is searching for a postdoctoral fellow studied in chronic diseases for DKU on its employment webpage.

The center also will focus on environmental health research, or the effects of air and water pollution on human health, and access to health care and insurance.

Already, about six GHI faculty members are conducting research in China.

“We have a good flow back-and-forth of researchers with China, in China, and we also have students in our master’s program from China,” Kramer said. “… We see this as an opportunity to deepen our research collaborations and educate the next generation of global health leaders in China.”

Duke’s business school also is taking its Durham model and applying it to Kunshan. For its management studies master’s program, Bill Boulding, the dean of Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, said the school spent almost a full year crafting its DKU proposal.

The master of management studies program in Durham began four years ago and is a pre-experience master’s degree for people who just finished their undergrad education. The Kunshan version of the program will prepare students on how to thrive in the Chinese economy.