New Asian-American Educational Studies Center to promote ‘education beyond borders'

A group of students sitting in a classroom.
The new Asian-American Educational Studies Center in the VCU School of Education aims to establish and maintain strong partnerships with universities from China and other Asian countries. (Photo courtesy of School of Education)

The beginning of the fall semester also marked the launch of a new venture for the VCU School of Education — the Asian-American Educational Studies Center.

“The center will be a hub for our visiting scholars, a support center for our Asian international students, and serve as a collaboration and training site for our professional development and other work with our Asian partners,” said Andrew Daire, Ph.D., dean of the School of Education. “We have an ambitious Asian initiative to increase research and teaching collaborative partnerships in China and other countries in Asia. We believe this will afford international research, teaching and learning opportunities for our faculty and students.” 

The idea for the new center came about after Daire and Yaoying Xu, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Counseling and Special Education, visited four universities in the Shanghai area two years ago and three universities in Southern China last year.

“Our vision of the center is to promote education beyond borders,” said Xu, who serves as the center’s director and has been individually hosting visiting scholars from China since 2013. “We want to establish and maintain strong partnerships with universities from China and other Asian countries.”

The two current visiting scholars at the center are from Shanghai Normal University’s School of Tourism and Shanghai Lixin University of Accounting and Finance but there are plans to extend the program to Thailand, India and Vietnam. Goals also include increasing and strengthening the Asian community at VCU along with improving the visiting scholar program from Asia with the hope that it will lead to more initiatives.

“We also want to enhance cultural awareness through short-term educational and cultural training programs built on the success of two recent programs,” Xu said. 

The School of Education held a four-week program this summer with seven students from East China Normal University in Shanghai, Jiangnan University in Wuxi and Nanjing Normal University in Nanjing who participated in lectures on pre-K to higher education, classroom observation and cultural experiences. 

A two-week early childhood/elementary education major practicum was held this past spring with 18 students and the associate dean from Shanghai Normal University School of Education. “This year we were piloting the program. We want to have these types of events annually,” Xu said. “Our goal is to increase the numbers for next year to 20 or more participants for the summer program and 30 or more for the practicum program.”

The center also plans to send exchange students to China. “We already have a Ph.D. student from the School of Education interning at Beijing Normal University-Hong Kong Baptist University United International College, one of nine private universities in China, and we have two professors giving lectures at Shanghai Normal University School of Education,” Xu said.

The Asian-American Educational Studies Center, currently located on the fourth floor of Oliver Hall, will move to its permanent home on the third floor when renovations are completed next year. Xu, along with other VCU faculty, doctoral students and community partners, will attend a joint educational research conference with Jiangnan University in Wuxi, China, from Oct. 24-26. James Lane, Ed.D., Virginia’s superintendent of public instruction, will be a keynote speaker.  

The current visiting scholars program lasts for one year but Xu hopes it can be extended to a three-year program, allowing scholars to continue to work with the center after they return to China. 

“We want to help strengthen our collaboration,” Xu said. “Dean Daire is very supportive of the program.”

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