Faculty Digest


The sixth edition of Sociology by John Macionis, along with a first edition of Sociology: Interactive Edition, a CD-ROM version of the text, was recently issued by Prentice Hall. The Canadian edition is in its second printing, while a European edition is currently under development. Macionis served as chair of a session at the Southwest Social Science meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, in March. Entitled "The Coming Cyber-Society," the meeting focused on how new information technology is transforming various dimensions of our daily lives. George McCarthy has had his latest book, Romancing Antiquity: German Critique of the Enlightenment from Weber to Habermas, accepted for publication. The book examines the Greek influence on the writings of Arendt, Freud, Gadamer, Habermas, Heidegger, Marcuse, and Weber. Howard Sacks has received a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for a project entitled "Blackface: The Minstrel Show in an American Town." Sacks will research the history of minstrelsy in Knox County, Ohio. On March 21-22, Sacks participated in a special conference on Antebellum Culture and the Banjo, sponsored by the Carter G. Woodson Institute for Afro-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Sacks discussed contemporary issues in minstrelsy research. Four of his students from the Family Farm Project--Elizabeth Belanger '97, Alisoun Davis '97, Amanda Feld '98, and Dana Lightstone '98--were chosen to present their work at the National Council on Undergraduate Research Conference held in April at the University of Texas in Austin. Edward Schortman and Patricia Urban (with their children, Aeleka and Hayden, and the new member of the family, Wallace Catherwood, a Pug), returned January 1 from two years in Honduras. While there, they directed four semesters of off-campus study for students from Kenyon and other institutions. Two semesters focused on archaeology and two semesters considered the culture and history of the area. They also attempted to finish the Naco Valley archaeological project. Excavation was done at La Sierra, the capital, and rural sites, doubling the number of pottery shards found to date, tripling the number of non-pottery artifacts, and, finally, yielding a decent skeletal sample. A second pottery kiln was located, as well as evidence for controlled use of fire outside formal kilns. Work was done on reconstructing the kiln found in 1990 to examine the mechanics of kiln construction and firing. Although questions remain, it is unlikely Schortman and Urban will return to the Naco Valley for more than one additional season, and that will not be before the spring of 2000. In the spring of 1995, they presented a session at the Society for American Archaeology Meetings covering twenty years of work in the Naco Valley. Papers were given by many Naco project alumni, including Ellen Bell '91, John Douglass '91, Matt Turek '93, Trey Armstrong '94, and Andrew Kindon '96. "After two years in Central America," says Urban, "Gambier is both familiar and strange, especially the white stuff that keeps falling and falling." Kenneth Smail had two papers accepted for publicationduring the spring and summer of 1997. An article entitled "The Giving of Hostages" appeared in the March issue of Politics and the Life Sciences; an essay, "Averting the Twenty-first-Century's Demographic Crisis: Can Human Numbers Be Reduced by 75 Percent?" is scheduled for publication in the June issue of the interdisciplinary journal Population and Environment.

Art and Art History

This winter, Gregory Spaid exhibited work combining photographic images with objects at the new Indianapolis Art Center in Indianapolis, Indiana. The show, "Creative Images '96," ran through March 2. He will have a one-person exhibition of his work in the Olin Gallery at Kenyon, opening on April 25 and running through Reunion Weekend, May 23-25. Entitled "Plain Pictures, etc.," the exhibit features a series of photographs of rural America including many from the high plains. A new children's book by Professor of Art Emeritus Joseph Slate, Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten, has been chosen as one of the New York Public Library's one hundred titles for "Reading and Sharing." It was also chosen as an American Booksellers "Pick of the List" for the fall 1996 season of children's books. Released in September 1996, the book is now in its third printing. Slate's previous book--Who Is Coming to Our House?--was also so honored by the New York Public Library. It has recently been reissued in Putnam's new PaperStar series. The hardcover edition was a Library of Congress best-book selection and a selection of the Children's Book of the Month Club. Ars has published a German board-book edition. Marshall Cavendish, a new children's imprint, has contracted for two new books by Slate, who lives in Silver Springs, Maryland.


William Romey presented papers at two conferences last summer. In June, he presented "Computer Animation of Schooling Fish: Predicting Structure and Trajectory Based on Individual Differences" at the Fish Ecology meetings at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. In August, Romey presented "The Role of Individual Differences on Grouping" at the animal behavior meeting at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. In late August, at the National Marine Fisheries Service laboratory at Sandy Hook, New Jersey, he conducted research on the grouping of bluefish. In the fall, Romey attended a week-long workshop on Global Information Systems (GIS) at Ohio State University in Columbus. He is using GIS and Global Positioning System mapping techniques in the ecology laboratory during the spring semester.


Scott Cummings has accepted a tenure-track position in the department. Cummings has been a visiting assistant professor since 1995. In April, Rosemary Marusak presented a talk at the University of Nebraska in Kearney as well as at two sessions at the American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting in San Francisco, California. Honors students Elizabeth Boon '97 and Sarah Hobert '97 were also invited to present their work at theACS meeting in San Francisco. Boon received a $600 travel grant from the women's section of the ACS in recognition of her work as an undergraduate. Also in April, Marusak accompanied twelve students, including Boon and Hobert, to the National Council on Undergraduate Research Conference at the University of Texas in Austin. Elizabeth Ottinger will join the department next fall as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Assistant Professor of Chemistry. She received her bachelor's degree from Franklin and Marshall College and her doctorate from the University of Minnesota. Ottinger is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Joslin Diabetes Center of the Harvard Medical School, where she is investigating insulin receptor signal transduction. The Pittsburgh Conference has awarded a grant of $6,000 to the department to assist in the purchase of an ultraviolet-visible spectrophotometer to be used in the introductory laboratory program.

Dance and Drama

While on sabbatical this year, Maggie Patton has been "busier than ever." In June, she studied flamenco dance at the University of New Mexico. August included trips to Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Hungary. September found her enrolled in a dance class with Willa Jo Zollar and Joe Chvalla, as well as a beginning Spanish class at Ohio State University. In March, Patton directed and choreographed a production of The Music Man for Upper Arlington High School and again traveled to Spain to continue her study of flamenco. Later this spring, she will be engaged in directing and choreographing The Pirates of Penzance for the Columbus Light Opera Company, in her debut as a director for that group. Stacy Reischman choreographed "Pulp Mambo," which was performed in Columbus, Ohio, by Lucy Corner '98, Darleen Feldman '99, Meida McNeal '97, and Mila Thigpen '97 as part of the Emerging Artist Concert Series at the Third Avenue Performance Space. The concert showcased other works by Reischman as well.


James Keeler presented a paper, "Empirical Evidence on the Austrian Business Cycle," at the International Atlantic Economics Society Conference in Washington, D.C., in October 1996. Bruce Gensemer, who is on sabbatical this year, has been sitting in on some classes at the Ohio State University Business School and working on development of a new course in managerial economics. Richard Trethewey hosted Nobel laureate Douglass North of Washington University for a two-day visit to Kenyon in February. North, who was one of Trethewey's graduate advisors at the University of Washington, gave a public lecture on "The Rise of the Western World" and a Common Hour presentation on recent developments in transitional economies. North's visit was sponsored by Phi Beta Kappa and the Richard Grandin Shepherd Lectureship.


Lori Lefkovitz is still on an extended leave from Kenyon. She isdirecting a new venture called Kolot (the Hebrew word for "voices"), a center for Jewish women's and gender studies at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her edited collection of essays, Textual Bodies: Changing Boundaries of Literary Representation, has been published by the State University of New York Press, and her essay "Inherited Holocaust Memories and the Ethics of Ventriloquism" has been published in the Winter 1997 issue of The Kenyon Review. A third essay, "Eve in the Semiotic Garden," appears in the current issue of Reconstructionist. Lefkovitz, who is completing a three-year term as a member of the Modern Language Association's Delegates Assembly, is in the second year of an academic fellowship at the Institute of the Philadelphia Association for Psychoanalysis. Recently appointed a consulting editor of Sh'ma magazine, she also serves as a consulting editor to The Kenyon Review and often appears as a speaker. This summer, Lefkovitz will again offer an interdisciplinary course on the representation of sisters in literature, psychology, and film through the master's degree program in liberal arts at the University of Pennsylvania. Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky is director of the Kenyon-Exeter Program this year. He has a chapter entitled "Taming the Basilisk: The Eye in the Discourses of Renaissance Anatomy" coming out in a book called The Body in Parts: Fantasies of Corporeality in Early Modern Culture, published this year by Routledge. Last spring, Lobanov-Rostovsky chaired a panel on "Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama Exclusive of Shakespeare" at the northeast meeting of the Modern Language Association. He recently reviewed Alice Fulton's latest book of poetry, Sensual Math, in The Kenyon Review and wrote a brief critical biography of Fulton for The Dictionary of Literary Biography. Also, Lobanov-Rostovsky gave a fiction reading at the Brecht Haus in Berlin in early March. Theodore Mason spoke on "The Challenge of Brokenness" to members and guests of Harcourt Parish in January in honor of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He was scheduled to deliver a paper called "Are We Having Fun Yet?: Race, Ethnicity, Postmodernism, and Minstrelsy" in April at Narrative: An International Conference at the University of Florida in Gainesville.


Reed Browning is researching the life of baseball great Cy Young, on whom he gave a Common Hour talk in November 1996. Browning would love to hear from anyone who has insights or information on Young. Ellen Furlough, who recently taught a new senior research seminar called "Cities and Urbanism," is looking forward to two additional new courses next year: "Rethinking the Victorians: Sex and Sexualities" and "From the Titanic to Total War: Twentieth-Century Europe, 1900-39." A book she edited with Victoria de Grazia, The Sex of Things: Gender and Consumption in Historical Perspective, was published last June. Furlough is now working on two other edited collections: Labor, Class, and Consumption: Consumer Cooperation in Europe and North America with Carl Strikwerda and The Development of Mass Tourism: Politics, Practices, and Identities in Europe and North Americawith former Kenyon colleague Shelley Baranowski. Furlough's article "Making Mass Vacations: Tourism and Consumer Culture in France, 1930s-1970s" has been accepted for publication in Comparative Studies in Society and History. Her paper on La Grande Motte, an urban tourist project in southern France, was presented at a conference on European urbanism in Budapest, Hungary, last August, and an additional paper on French tourism was presented at a Social Science History conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, last October. Furlough plans to spend the summer working on her book on tourism and consumer culture. Peter Rutkoff and William Scott will share Kenyon's National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Distinguished Teaching Professorship for the next three years. During that time, they will conduct a series of seminars and related activities under the heading of "The African-American Urban History Project." The project will focus on the "Great Migrations" from the South to the North, with a different pair of cities--Charleston, South Carolina, and New York City; Birmingham, Alabama, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Memphis, Tennessee, and Chicago, Illinois--examined each year. The NEH professorship, which is awarded on a competitive basis, has been held for the past three years by Howard Sacks of the sociology faculty. An article by Roy Wortman, "Reflections on Using American Indian Autobiographies in the Teaching of Native Histories," appeared in Occasional Papers in the Curriculum Series, published by the Newberry Library's D'Arcy McNickle Center for the History of the American Indian. He is developing a new first-year history seminar for next year on "Natives, Colonizers, and Conflict," which will analyze, through documents, secondary accounts, historical fiction, film, and memory, three episodes in American Indian and American history from the colonial era through 1876.

International Studies

Wendy Singer has begun her term as director of international studies. This year the department held a six-lecture series on "New and Current Research in International Studies from Spain to Botswana." Lecturers have come from both far--Delhi University and the University of Exeter--and near, with several from Kenyon. The international studies sophomore course is underway, using the new Kenyon satellite equipment to keep current on international news broadcasts. Singer, who spent last year on sabbatical doing research in India, is completing a book entitled Women and The History of Indian Elections to be published by Oxford University Press. Her book Creating History: Oral Narrative and the Politics of History Making was released by Oxford in February. Before ending his term as director, Joseph Klesner wrote an article on "An International Studies Major Focused Outside the North Atlantic Community: Experiences and Suggestions," which appeared in the fall 1996 issue of International Studies Notes, a publication of the International Studies Association.

Modern Languages and Literatures

"Bridging the Gap: Teaching and Testing," an article by Jianhua Bai, has been accepted for publication in the Proceedings ofYoungstown State University's Nineteenth Annual Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages and Literatures. In February, Bai was the keynote speaker for the conference of the Southern California Council of Chinese Schools. He is creating a page on the World Wide Web that introduces the Chinese program at Kenyon and provides links to other web sites that are useful for teaching and learning Chinese. Jean Blacker taught a new course this year, "Themes in Francophone Literature: Individual and Cultural Identity in the Modern Francophone Novel." She also taught the triennial School-College Articulation Program (SCAP) seminar for high-school French teachers last June on Francophone poetry. Currently in the first year of a two-year term as department chair, Blacker has assisted in the implementation of plans for a new language learning center, supported in part by the Mellon Foundation grant awarded last spring to the Five Colleges of Ohio consortium. While continuing to work on her edition of Merlin's Prophecies for the Anglo-Norman Text Society's Plain Text Series, she has prepared three articles for publication: "Where Wace Feared to Tread: Latin Commentaries on Merlin's Prophecies in the Reign of Henry II" in Arthuriana, Volume 6, Number 1; "+Dame Custance la gentil': Gaimar's Portrait of a Lady and Her Books" in The Court and Cultural Diversity, July 1997; and "Women, Power, and Violence in Orderic Vitalis's Historia Ecclesiastica in Women and Violence in Medieval and Renaissance Texts, edited by Anna Walecka Roberts, from the University of Florida Press. Blacker presented a paper in May 1996 at the International Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on language, ethnicity, and a sense of the past in Wace's Roman de Brut; this May, she will present a paper at Kalamazoo on language, culture, and power in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, the First Variant, and Wace's Brut. As a member of the executive committee of the Arthurian Discussion Group of the Modern Language Association, Blacker is organizing a session on individual and cultural identity in Arthurian narrative for the Modern Language Association convention in December 1997 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. John Jursinic will be on leave for the next two years, completing requirements for his doctorate in Russian. Janet Luttecke, currently an adjunct instructor of Spanish, will return to Kenyon next fall as a replacement for Carlos Piano during his sabbatical year. Linda Metzler and Ana Ramirez Rodriguez '97 have created a Spanish-language multimedia program, installed on the World Wide Web, on the coca leaf in Bolivia. The program, funded by a Teaching Initiatives Grant awarded by the Faculty Affairs Committee, combines text, a dictionary, music, images, a video clip, and interactive and writing exercises. "La hoja de coca en Bolivia" acquaints students with the indigenous cultures of Bolivia and portrays the problematic relationship between Bolivia and the United States over the question of eradication of coca-leaf fields. Natalia Olshanskaya will join the department with a two-year appointment as visiting assistant professor of Russian. Olshanskaya holds a Candidat (the Russian equivalent of a doctorate) from Odessa State University. Noriko Reider, a Japanese literature specialist who is also skilled at languageteaching, has been visiting as assistant professor of Japanese while Hideo Tomita is on sabbatical leave. Reider, whose doctoral dissertation is on premodern ghost stories in Japanese literature, has introduced a Japanese literature survey course that is, according to her colleagues, "entertaining and down-to-earth." An article by Tomita entitled "Cue-based analysis on acquisition of the Japanese particles Wa and Ga by level two Japanese learners" will soon appear in Japanese Language Education Around the Globe, published by the Japan Foundation. Tomita supervised the second-year Japanese class at Middlebury College last summer, where he also collected placement-test data from the entire Japanese school for a study, "Examining the reliability of SPOT Test developed by Tsukuba University," the results of which will be presented at the Princeton Japanese Pedagogy Workshop in May. Tomita, who is active in using language-learning technology to supplement other resources for the Japanese program, recently developed a web page that allows learners to read Japanese newspapers with an online dictionary. He has been asked to demonstrate uses of language technology for the Great Lakes Colleges Association's Japan Study Conference at Kalamazoo College in October.


Andrew Pessin has recently completed work on a textbook on the philosophy of the mind. The book is scheduled for publication this summer by M.E. Sharpe Press.


In January, Thomas Greenslade presented a paper at the meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers in Phoenix, Arizona, in which he discussed methods of incorporating history into the teaching of physics. In February, he gave a talk at Albion College in Michigan on the history of photography and a talk at Miami University of Ohio on the history of physics. During the spring break, he did research at Yale University in Connecticut and Amherst College in Massachusetts on the history of physics and visited Williston Northampton School in Massachusetts to photograph a noteworthy collection of early physics-teaching apparatus. Paula Turner attended the winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society, held in conjunction with the Canadian Astronomical Society, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She has been working with COSEN students to provide a five-week program involving local middle-school girls in hands-on science projects each weekend at Kenyon. Turner helped present a program at the Kenyon Center for Environmental Studies entitled "Follow the Drinking Gourd." Six faculty members--Greenslade, John Idoine, Carson Roberts, Benjamin Schumacher, Timothy Sullivan, and Turner--along with David Cowart '96 and Robin Blume-Kohout '98 were the authors of a paper, "Adding Eyes to Your Computer," that was published in January in The Physics Teacher. The paper described the successful implementation of a program of computer use in physics laboratories in which the computer is coupled to asensitive video camera to allow digital video movies to be stored in the computer's memory and then retrieved later for analysis. The work was funded jointly by Kenyon and the National Science Foundation.

Political Science

Ann Davies presented a paper, "The +True Grandeur' of Liberal and Religious Sentiment in Tocqueville's Democracy in America," at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association in Chicago, Illinois, in April. Next year, she will be teaching at Beloit College, where she has been hired into a tenure-track position in political science. A 1987 graduate of Kenyon, Davies earned her doctorate at the University of Chicago. Joseph Klesner delivered three papers recently. In August, he presented "Neoliberal Economic Policies, Income Inequality, and Electoral Politics in Latin America in the 1990s" at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association in San Francisco, California. At the annual meeting of the International Studies Association in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in March, Klesner spoke on "Neoliberal Economic Policies, the Burden of Adjustment, and Mass Politics in Latin America in the 1990s." He also delivered a paper on "Changing Patterns of Electoral Participation in Mexico's Hegemonic Party System: The Impact of Electoral Reform" at the Midwest Political Science Association annual meeting in Chicago, Illinois, in April. Klesner was also a participant in a workshop on "Impacts of Trade and Integration on Subregions in Mexico and the United States" held at Georgetown University in April. His article on "Political Change in Mexico: Institutions and Identity" will appear in the summer 1997 issue of Latin American Research Review. Last June, Stephen Van Holde and Wendy Singer of history and international studies joined Associate Provost Robert Bennett at a conference on "The Future of International Studies in the Liberal Arts Context," held at Connecticut College.


Allan Fenigstein traveled to Lisbon, Portugal, over spring break, at the invitation of the Portuguese Ministry of Science, to consult on research proposals by Portuguese psychologists. His review of a new book on social anxiety was recently published in Contemporary Psychology. The Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology is soon to publish Fenigstein's article on "Paranoid Thought and Schematic Processing." He has also contributed a chapter on "Self-Consciousness and Psychological-Mindedness" to the soon-to-be-published Psychological Mindedness. A paper on "Aging and Self-Consciousness," written with Ellen Stoltzfus and Julia Pryce '96, has been accepted for presentation at the annual convention of American Psychological Science in Washington, D.C., in June. Fenigstein is currently serving as chair of Kenyon's Task Force on Alcohol and Other Drugs. Arthur Leccese, who is on leave and living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, is doing research with Maripharm, a company that wants to guarantee the quality and consistency of marijuana as medicine while researching the active compounds in the plant. Sarah Murnen and Shannon Pierce '97presented a paper at the conference of the Association for Women in Psychology in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in March entitled "Power Over, Empowerment, and Sexuality as Power: Gender and Reactions to Power Strategies." Murnen presented "Women's Responses to Sexual Stimuli in a Naturalistic Setting" at the same conference. Murnen, Stoltzfus, and Kathryn Petrock '97 presented a paper on "Effects of Language Style on Persuasion and Impressions of Female Speakers," also at the Pittsburgh conference. Stoltzfus plans to attend the Midwest Faculty Seminar on "Memory, History, and Experience" in April. Jon Williams, on sabbatical this year, reports he is working as hard as ever. As director of the Neuroscience Concentration, he has been writing articles with former students, giving talks, and conducting research with students on the biopsychological effects of stress. Gregory Hotsenpiller '95 and Williams have recently published two articles in Psychobiology, entitled "Conditioned Fear and Analgesia to Conspecific Odors: Benzodiazepine and 5-HT1A Agonists" and "A Synthetic Predator Odor (TMT) Enhances Conditioned Analgesia and Fear When Paired with a Benzodiazepine Receptor Inverse Agonist (FG-7142)." An article on "Effects of Predator-Induced Stress and Age on Working Memory," written by Shelley Baker '96, Jennifer Gress of Denison University, and Bennet Givens, a professor at Ohio State University, has been submitted for publication in Learning and Motivation. Williams presented this research in November at a psychonomics convention in Chicago, Illinois. He also gave an address on the research he has conducted for the past five years on the "Effects of Conspecific and Predator Stressors on Fear, Analgesia, and Memory" at the Southwestern Comparative Psychology Association meeting in Fort Worth, Texas, in April.

Jianhua Bai distinguishes himself as both teacher and researcher

O vercoming barriers is something Jianhua Bai has done all his life. It's how he chose his career, how he found his teaching position, and how he succeeds with his students.

"Some students come in with the idea that learning Chinese is impossible," says Bai, an assistant professor of Chinese. By the end of the first week, however, he has his first-year students greeting each other in the language, and, by the end of the first semester, they're functional in classroom and family conversation. "Once they can do that," says Bai, "it gives them a sense of achievement, and they can overcome this myth that it is impossible to learn Chinese."

Now in his sixth year at Kenyon, Bai is described by colleagues as a tireless worker who puts his all into his students and his research. But he also has time to grab the basketball stashed on the bottom bookshelf in his Ascension Hall office and shoot some hoops with coworkers or his fifteen-year-old son Peng. "I'm better at shooting than at dribbling the ball," admits Bai. "Shooting--now that is relaxing."

The road that led him from his birthplace near Hebei in the People's Republic of China to Kenyon was a long and curious one. As a youth, Bai was a mathematical wizard, but when selecting a college major, math was not one of the choices open to him. "They told me I could major in English, Chinese, or in a profession like aerospace technology," he says. His past experience with English, which he'd studied in secondary school, prompted him to choose that subject over the others.

Within a few years, Bai had overcome his first barrier, earning both his bachelor's degree in English from Hebei Teachers University and a prestigious fellowship to study linguistics at the University of Pittsburgh.

His first few months in the United States were far from ideal. Separated from his wife and infant son, who remained in Hebei, the twenty-six-year-old graduate student found himself in the wide-open world of American society, an experience that he at first found terrifying.

"In China, once you were accepted into a college, they took care of everything for you," he says. But when he arrived at the University of Pittsburgh, Bai had to find his own apartment, get his own meals, and make his own schedule--while discovering how difficult it was to use the language, in which he had become an expert, on an everyday basis.

Still, he distinguished himself at Pitt, winning scholarships and research grants while earning master's and doctoral degrees there. After graduation, Bai faced another difficult decision--whether to stay in the fast-paced United States or return to his less pressured but politically troubled homeland. His acceptance of a faculty position at Kenyon in 1991 helped simplify his decision.

"When I came here and saw the small-town setting, I was happy," he says. "I like this more rural environment because I was born in such a place." Bai was also attracted by thesupportive atmosphere among staff members in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. After coming to the College, Bai began actively pursuing his research in language teaching methods--and using some of those cutting-edge methods with his Kenyon students.

"Learning a foreign language is half intellectual education and half physical education," he says. It's important for students to read, think, and write, adds Bai, but teachers also have to "throw you into the pool and let you swim."

That's why he stresses spoken Chinese from the very first class, using transliterated words in Roman letters to ease the students' transition from English to Chinese. Eventually, Bai drills his students in recognizing the characters--pictograms that represent the words and sounds of the Chinese language.

"Chinese probably has the simplest grammar of any language in the world," he says. "The only difficult thing about it is learning the characters." Still, by the end of their three years of study, many of Bai's students are able to read newspapers and other "authentic" materials in Chinese.

Among his other innovations have been the use of Chinese fables, films, newspapers, and short stories to help broaden his students' understanding of Chinese language and culture. "You cannot separate the culture from the language," says Bai. "In Chinese, you may know what to say, but it's also important to know what is appropriate to say. . . . For example, to do business in China, you have to be very patient and spend a lot of time making small talk first. The idea is that you have to become friends first. In the United States, people are more direct. But if you don't take the culture into account, there could be a breakdown in communication."

Since coming to Kenyon, Bai has made a name for himself in Chinese instruction at the regional and national levels. He's been elected to the executive board of the Chinese Language Teachers Association, helped develop and fine-tune Chinese proficiency tests, and cowritten a textbook entitled Beyond the Basics: Communicative Chinese for Intermediate and Advanced Learners.

The once-shy Bai now says he's found his niche in the classroom. "I enjoy teaching, and I enjoy being with these energetic young people," he says. "The biggest excitement for me is to see people who know nothing about Chinese when they arrive, and then, after two years, they are so proficient that I hear from other colleges and summer programs about how good they are. Once I was talking with a colleague in China, who said, +Your students are wonderful--send me more of them!' Really, it's like watching babies grow."

--Kathy Wesley

Kathy Wesley, a freelance writer, lives in Newark, Ohio.

Back to Top