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Visiting faculty shares global perspective

March 03, 2016 12:00 AM
Pikeville, Ky.
Students at the University of Pikeville-Coleman College of Business have an added advantage in the classroom as visiting scholar Zhezhu Wen, of Yanji, China, is incorporating international culture into his business courses.

Howard Roberts, dean of the Coleman College of Business, met Wen during a trip to Yanbian University of Science and Technology when the two universities established a faculty and student exchange program. Wen is the first faculty member to visit the university under that agreement.

“The benefits of an international faculty exchange program accrue to the students, the faculty and to the institution,” said Roberts. “The invigoration of the faculty with new colleagues, combined with the global exposure provided to UPIKE students, facilitates and promotes international learning. Wen brings international diversity to our program and a passion to serve our students.”

“When Dr. Roberts interviewed me about the opportunity of visiting UPIKE he enumerated many similarities he perceived between Pikeville and our community of Yanji, China,” said Wen. “Now I have started to realize what he meant. Many things I see and have experienced here, especially the interaction between local community and UPIKE, are valuable because of those similarities.”

Coming from a remote area in China, Wen can relate to students from the rural areas of Central Appalachia.

“You have to find ways to develop yourself,” said Wen. “You can learn a lot of things by putting yourself in a different cultural context. It is a globalized world. The more culturally diverse you are as an individual the more you can have security in employment.”

Wen teaches personal money management, computer applications for business and a special topics course in advanced Excel but often interjects information from his diverse background into his lectures.

“They don’t like hard theories, but they respond to and are interested in stories and are curious about Chinese and Korean cultures,” said Wen.

An ethnic Korean born and raised in China, Wen’s family lineage has a rich history. A century ago, to avoid famine and warfare, his great-grandfather, along with other Korean immigrants, travelled to China to start a new life. They settled in the Northeastern part of China and formed a large ethnic Korean community.

“I see myself working with a lot of people from different nations … it’s built into my background,” said Wen. Fluent in Mandarin and Korean, he learned to speak Japanese in middle and high school before learning to speak English.

Having studied and taught in both China and the United States, Wen understands the role culture plays in the classroom.

“The Chinese culture exhibits virtues of humbleness and reserve and U.S. culture has virtues of confidence,” said Wen. “When you put that into the education context it doesn’t play well unless you understand those cultural differences. Without understanding culture there is no education.”

“From my first day here at the University of Pikeville, I have been in total awe of its mission of ‘Enhancing the educational, cultural and economic opportunities of Appalachia,’” said Wen. “I believe this statement clearly explains the kind of role that UPIKE is playing in this area and thus I feel humbled and honored to join the UPIKE family, even though this will be a temporary stay.”

Prior to coming to UPIKE last fall, Wen taught at his alma mater, Yanbian University of Science and Technology, in Yanji, China. He obtained a Master of Science degree in information systems from University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, a small liberal arts university in Central Texas.

Wen and his wife, Ester, recently welcomed the birth of their daughter, Zhaoxi Jubliee Wen.

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