Professors speak at conference in China


The Appalachian Online

Tommy Culkin

Five Appalachian State University professors spoke at the American Cultural Center at Northeastern University in Shenyang, China in May, leading discussions on sustainability.

Greg Reck, an Anthropology professor at Appalachian who took part in the trip, said the university’s reputation for sustainability played a large role in helping the school receive the grant for the trip. Appalachian founded the American Cultural Center in 2013.

Reck said the trip was financed with an annual $50,000 grant the university receives from the U.S. Department of State. Appalachian State began receiving the yearly grant in 2014, following the establishment of the American Cultural Center at Northeastern University in 2013.

“ASU is recognized nationally for its emphasis on sustainability,” Reck said. “So it was a good thing to emphasize during this exchange.”

The professors spoke to the assemblages about numerous issues regarding sustainability. They also led discussions at universities in Shanghai and Beijing.

For example, Elizabeth Cramer, the coordinator for Belk Library, showed the documentaries “Food Inc.” and “Supersize Me,” followed by discussions about the role food production and consumption plays in sustainability.

“It was an interesting topic for the students,” Cramer said. “It exposed them to [Americans’] eating habits, and it gave insight into the epidemic of obesity in the United States. It’s very different from their lived experiences, so there was this great exchange between us, the films, and the students.”

While most of the faculty members who went on the trip said they had wonderful experiences, they also agreed they would love to return for a longer period of time and enjoy the trip purely from a tourist’s perspective.

“We went to the big cities, but I’d like to go back and see outside of the big cities, because I don’t feel like I’ve experienced all there is to experience in China,” Cramer said. “I’ve seen a very small portion.”

Reck said it’s important for the United States and China to have a dialogue about sustainability because of the ecological impact the two nations have on the environment.

“When you look at sustainability, you have to look at what’s happening in terms of global climate change, and the U.S. and China historically are the two biggest contributors to the negative factors that are producing climate change,” Reck said.

He said he believes the main purpose of the trip was to foster international relations with China.

“The underlying philosophy of [the trip to China] is to share resources, share information, and build some cooperative goodwill between the United States and China,” he said.

Story by Tommy Culkin, News Reporter