Michigan State University
Michigan State University
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Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures
Department of Writing
Rhetoric & American Cultures

WRAC Faculty Member Accepted Into Fulbright Specialist Program

A couple of years ago, WRAC Assistant Professor Xiqiao Wang was taking part in a workshop at the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC). The workshop was designed in a “speed dating” format, where scholars would move from one table to the next and discuss their research. Professor Wang was simply attending to listen to a diverse range of perspectives and learn more about conducting research in a global environment; however, she was especially intrigued by one researcher’s story of receiving a Fulbright Specialist grant. She listened closely as the researcher explained how the program allowed her to travel to Vietnam to help a university build its first writing center. Naturally, Professor Wang had several questions, and by the end of the workshop, she realized that the Fulbright Specialist Program could be the perfect opportunity to expand her research.

sonja wang photo.jpg

Professor Wang has an extensive interdisciplinary background. After double majoring in Business English and International Accounting, she went on to earn her M.A. in Rhetoric and Composition, and later, her Ph.D. in Literacy Education. She’s currently a WRAC assistant professor with research interests in transnational literacy, digital literacy, translingual pedagogy, and multimodal composition.

With this scholarly background and interests and her experience at CCCC, Professor Wang began looking further into the Fulbright Specialist Program. As part of the larger Fulbright Program, the Fulbright Specialist Program pairs highly qualified U.S. academics and professionals with host institutions abroad to share their expertise, strengthen institutional linkages, hone their skills, gain international experience, and learn about other cultures while building capacity at their overseas host institutions.”

It wasn’t long before Professor Wang began preparing her application materials, including a statement of her professional experiences, two research statements, and three letters of recommendation. After a two-year application process—and a highly competitive one—she was selected to join the Fulbright Specialist Roster. “Every single year, they only select 10 possible projects to fund in China,” she says. “This year, they received 30 applications that are multidisciplinary in nature, so I was feeling really lucky to be finally selected.”

As a Fulbright Specialist, Professor Wang will be collaborating with Hainan University in Haikou, China. “One of the reasons why I chose Hainan University was because of the cultural and linguistic diversity,” she remarks. Her work will focus on improving the students’ critical thinking skills, particularly when it comes to reading and writing. She will analyze how students can more critically engage with text and use reading and writing to be introduced to diverse perspectives.

Through conversations with Hainan’s dean, Professor Wang also recognized that there could be some areas of improvement in their curricula. “Many of [the students] had very little experiences using writing as a way of inquiry, as a way of learning about issues that are really relevant in social and cultural environments, or learning about concepts in an interdisciplinary field,” she says. In addition to improving students’ writing skills, she hopes to “expand their ways of looking at the world” and possibly work toward reinventing the curriculum to “better reflect critical writing and critical reading principles.”

Professor Wang also believes her own background will allow her to make the most of the six-week project. “I feel like working with the students is helping me to rethink my experiences as a biliterate scholar,” she notes. “A lot of my experiences are kind of encouraging me to reimagine possible ways of offering language learning in a traditional Chinese educational environment.”

The Fulbright Specialist Program will essentially provide Professor Wang the opportunity to carry out her research and achieve a variety of goals. She also hopes to closely connect with local students and listen to their unique personal stories about writing. “Using writing as a way of learning about yourself, learning about the culture around you, learning in your disciplinary field,” she says, “I feel like that’s what writing should be. It’s really an important part of who we are: Using writing as a way of learning about the world.

Written by Reyna Hurand
18 April 2018