April 4, 1997
Interactive Course to Explore East Asia
By Ellie Walradth
UW-RF News Bureau
A special class at UW-River Falls has been designed to give students a virtual understanding of one of the most crucial areas of the world.
With the funds from three grants, the interdisciplinary class "Political and Economic Issues of East Asia" will be offered through an interactive television network next fall. The class will link students and faculty from three University of Wisconsin campuses.
"This class will help students gain multidimensional knowledge of East Asia that they will be able to use in the future," says political science Professor Jie Chen, UW-RF coordinator.
The course will teach students about the politics, economics, history, culture, philosophy, geography and business environment in East Asia. It will explore the collective impact that East Asia has on the world economy and global politics.
A team of faculty from UW-River Falls, UW-LaCrosse and UW-Stevens Point will teach the course. The class has no prerequisites and will be available on all three campuses.
The instructors plan to share their experiences and expertise as well as invite guest speakers through interactive TV. The speakers will be from the three campuses, and some may be connected live from East Asia. Throughout the course, students will watch seldom-viewed documentaries about East Asia and explore the Internet.
The class will be offered Sept. 2-Dec. 19 on Mondays from 3-3:50 p.m. and Fridays from 3-4:50 p.m. in the Kleinpell Fine Arts building. Non-degree seeking students from Wisconsin may enroll in the course for about $80, and Minnesota residents with reciprocity may enroll for about $95.
Chen believes that students should learn about East Asia for both political and economic reasons. For example, he notes that new buildings and construction projects in China are signs that the economy is booming, providing many business opportunities. Those who are aware of the region's economic state will have a competitive advantage in the global marketplace, says Chen.
"I have found that businesses in China are very willing to deal with foreign investors," says Chen.
In addition to being one of its largest markets, East Asia has become one of the United States' top trading partners and one of its strongest economic competitors. East Asia has maintained a 10 percent average annual rate of economic growth for about 15 years; this is the largest of any region in the world.
Along with economic considerations, Chen says that students should learn about East Asia for political reasons because many of the security interests of the United States are linked to issues in East Asia.
The constant tensions between mainland China and Taiwan and the conflict between North and South Korea have potential impact on the United States, says Chen. The United States has the second largest military force in the region, and about half of its overseas military personnel are stationed there.
Chen wants citizens and students to learn about East Asia because activities in this region affect the world. For example, the potential impact of China's rapidly growing nuclear abilities should be a concern to everyone.
Chen hopes that the introductory course will stimulate interest and be a springboard for the creation of a cross-campus East Asian Studies minor.
With combined resources, the faculty planning this pilot introductory course want to develop the minor using the interactive TV network technology.
For more information about the course, call Chen at 715/425-3318. For registration information call 715/425-3342.