Doctoral Student Has Reading to Do Before Summer Institute

May 12, 2017

Qian Zhang
Qian Zhang

University of Arkansas graduate student Qian Zhang has an important homework assignment due before she goes to summer camp in New York.

Zhang was selected to be one of 12 participants to attend the Literacy Unbound Summer Institute at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is a doctoral student in the curriculum and instruction program in the College of Education and Health Professions. Organizers said applications came from educators all over the world.

The institute will focus on remixing Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, a short novel published in 1899 about a voyage up the Congo River. Zhang will join 11 other educators who will work with 12 New York students to "challenge, re-conceptualize, re-vision and re-create Conrad's novel for the stage," the email congratulating Zhang said. A public performance is planned for July 19 on the Columbia campus.

Zhang laughed when asked whether she has read the Conrad book. She hasn't but she certainly will before she goes to New York in July. She doesn't have much detail yet about the summer institute.

"I love going into a situation I don't know much about," she said. "I love to experience new things."

Zhang does already have some experience in arts integration. She became interested in integrating arts into her teaching when she was working in the Pulaski County Special School District in Little Rock. She came from China in 2012 to teach the Chinese language and culture and spent about four years there. She has undergraduate and master's degrees from universities in China. She began her doctoral program in Fayetteville in the spring of 2016.

"I'm really interested in the American education system and engaging public schoolchildren," Zhang said. "I got interested in arts integration through my mentor in Little Rock, and I felt like I should learn more."

Zhang works as a graduate assistant for Freddie Bowles, associate professor of foreign language education, and she also has participated in several workshops with the Center for Children and Youth. It is based in the College of Education and Health Professions and provides professional development for teachers to integrate arts into their curriculum.

"I'm in heaven," she said. "I'll get to do what I really love doing. Learning is much better when you don't just sit there."

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