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Visiting scholar from China offers students cultural diversity

Visiting scholar from China offers students cultural diversity
A visiting scholar from Zhejiang Normal University in Jinhua, China, Dr. Yanming Yu is teaching English grammar and researching the different teaching practices of English grammar between Chinese and American college students during her year-long stay at UNG.

Yanming Yu is an associate professor in English from Zhejiang Normal University (ZJNU) in Jinhua, China. She came to the University of North Georgia (UNG) in January for a year to teach grammar and conduct research on the differences of teaching English grammar between Chinese and American college students.

She received her bachelor's degree in English from ZJNU in 2000 and earned a master's degree in linguistics there in 2003. Yu received a doctorate in linguistics from Shanghai International Studies University in 2015. She has taught English and linguistics at the College of Foreign Languages at ZJNU since 2003.

At ZJNU, Yu teaches English grammar to English majors. Usually she teaches several classes with about 30 students to each class. At UNG, she teaches one class with 12 students.

"Teaching a smaller class is a gift," Yu said. "The smaller class size allows me to spend enough time with my students, attending to their academic needs."

Yu is the first professor from ZJUN to come to UNG as a visiting scholar. The exchange began when Dr. Chris Jespersen, dean of the College of Arts & Letters, visited ZJNU, where one UNG student majoring in Chinese had enrolled there. His visit made it possible for UNG faculty to teach there, beginning in the spring of 2015, with Dr. Donna Gessell, professor of English; Dr. Jeff Marker, chair of the Department of Communication, Media & Journalism and Joyce Stavick, department head of English, for a two-month exchange program.

Yu said she had always wanted to teach in America and first learned about UNG through friendships she formed with Stavick. She began the long and complicated application process last year, and to her surprise, "it just all fell into place." Based on her conversations with Stavick, and a lot of internet research, UNG was her first, and only choice.

"UNG is a wonderful university. It pays a lot of attention to its students and getting them to give their best effort," Yu said.

Stavick said that having Yu as a visiting scholar opens a door to another world for students.

"UNG prepares students to be leaders in regional, national and global society," Stavick said. "In these efforts, it is helpful for our students, particularly those who may not be able to study abroad, to benefit from exposure to, and instruction from, international faculty who can introduce our students to features of cultures otherwise unfamiliar to them."

The opportunity to spend a year at UNG allows Yu to hone her teaching skills on students whose first language is English.

"As an experienced English grammar teacher, I know a lot about teaching practices in China and how grammar proficiency builds over time," Yu said. "I can compare different teaching and learning practices between students at UNG and ZJUN, as well as textbooks, proficiency and lesson retention. I think this program offers me a great chance to grow academically in teaching grammar, as well as taking what I learn here back to ZJUN."

Stavick is overjoyed Yu landed a visiting professor position at UNG. She said Yu teaches grammar much like she would, and that she is a very good instructor—and a good person.

"When I was visiting (ZJNU), Yanming was my host professor," Stavick said. "I got sick during my stay and she was adamant about not leaving me all alone. She was very caring to me and I consider her a friend."

Yu has learned from other professors that some visiting scholars often feel a little lost, a little out of place. She said she hasn't felt that way here.

"To me, this feels just like home," she said.

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