25 Years of Grinnell-Nanjing Exchange

Wed, 2012-05-23 08:24 am

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Grinnell College’s partnership with Nanjing University.

At the end of May, President Raynard S. KingtonDean Paula Smith, and other College officials travel to Nanjing, China — a city of about 8 million on the Yangtze River and some 250 miles west of Shanghai — to celebrate the anniversary and sign the next five-year agreement between the two institutions. While there, they also meet with Grinnell alumni in the region.

The Grinnell-Nanjing Exchange was a form of renewing the old “Grinnell-in-China” program, started in 1916 when the College provided financial support, teachers, and principals for two missionary-run high schools. That program ended with the Japanese invasion of China in 1937.

When the Grinnell-Nanjing Exchange was founded in 1987, it brought a Chinese language professor to Grinnell from Nanjing to support Grinnell’s nascent Chinese language program and sent a Grinnell College student to Nanjing after graduation to teach English at a Chinese middle school (the equivalent of an American senior high school).

Over the years, the exchange has grown. It now sends Grinnell faculty to teach in China each spring and brings Chinese scholars and language instructors to Grinnell. As part of the Grinnell Corps postgraduate service program, the exchange dispatches two new Grinnell graduates each year to teach English at a school affiliated with Nanjing University. The exchange also provides an annual scholarship to Grinnell for a high school graduate from Nanjing. The winner is selected from one of four high schools in Nanjing, including the school where Grinnell College graduates teach English.

The history of the program has its benefits. “I frequently feel the presence of Grinnell in Nanjing,” says Dylan O’Donoghue ’11, a 2011–12 Nanjing teaching fellow. “Since being here, I have randomly run into more than six Grinnellians, including current students, alumni, and former faculty. It feels like everyone has heard of Grinnell or knows a former fellow or someone related to the College,” she continues. “When I meet or hear of a Grinnellian in Nanjing, I get that ‘small world‘ feeling, and I know that if that person is a excited to meet me as I am to meet him or her, a relationship will develop. It’s the Grinnell-in-Nanjing way.”

The agreement signed in May represents the sixth five-year agreement between the two institutions and is in effect for the 2012–2017 period.