The Brown School at Washington University—which offers graduate degrees in social work, public health and social policy—has forged robust relationships with Chinese universities, students and alumni over the past decade.
Shenyang Guo, who serves as Washington University’s assistant vice chancellor for international affairs – Greater China and a professor at the Brown School, has led the development of partnerships and outreach in the country, in particular the expansion of the master of social policy (MSP) program.
“The Brown School is dedicated to social change on a global scale and transdisciplinary thinking to solve complex problems around the world,” said Guo, who was recently named a Yangtze River Scholar by China’s Ministry of Education and Yangtze River Chaired Professor at Xi’an Jiaotong University.
“Our partnerships in China allow us to enroll top-tier, international students, expand our research capabilities and engage in diverse and innovative thinking.”
Policy Program and Partnerships
In 2015, the Brown School launched a unique master of social policy (MSP) dual degree partnership program with premier Chinese universities. Partners include East China University for Sciences and Technology, Fudan University, Nankai University, Peking University, Renmin University of China’s School of Public Administration and Policy and School of Sociology and Population Studies, Xi’an Jiaotong University and Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Students enrolled in graduate degrees from partner institutions come to the Brown School for a year of intense social policy study and gain advanced knowledge and skills in social policy analysis, evaluation, management and leadership. This international scholarship is powerful when paired with the studies at their home university, such as social work, public health, public administration, sociology, gerontology or social medicine.
“The unique curriculum is designed to help students develop the skills and experience necessary to advance social welfare, through the development and implementation of innovative policy approaches,” said Linyun Fu, MSP program coordinator.
A short course, which takes place in China prior to the arrival at the Brown School, features the opportunity for MSP students to take an in-depth look into a few aspects of policy. Courses this past summer were taught at Fudan University by Senior Lecturer Linda Raclin and Professor of Practice Barry Rosenberg. Topics focused on disability policy in the United States, as well as non-governmental organizations’ roles in human service delivery and policy.
The MSP program now has 22 Chinese alumni, who have gone on to top PhD programs, policy research positions, and global and community-level policy work with organizations such as UNICEF. This year, 15 more are set to graduate.
MSP Alumna: Lei Chen
A native of Changzhou, China, Lei Chen came to Washington University while earning her master’s in demography at Fudan University.
She had a special interest in comparative social policy. Working with Bernard Becker Professor Tim McBride, Chen assisted with research that focused on a comparative analysis of health reform in her home country and the United States.
A Brown School trip to Washington D.C. during spring break allowed Chen to meet with social policy experts at the national level, including staff at the Brookings Institution and Department of Health and Human Services.
“This gave me a direct and deep understanding of how social policy is processed in the U.S., which was a really unforgettable experience in my life,” Chen said. After graduating in the first MSP class in 2015, she is now studying towards her PhD in social welfare with a focus on aging and health policy at the University of California in Los Angeles.
“Lei is one of the best young researchers I have ever worked with in my career,” Professor McBride said. She was easily accepted into one of the best doctoral programs in the U.S. after completing the MSP degree at the Brown School, and together, we have started work on the significant changes in the retirement system in China. She is a brilliant research scholar to watch.”
MSP Alumna: Shuqin Yu
During her time at the Brown School, Shuqin Yu, also of Fudan University, was especially dedicated to policy issues impacting international populations and advancing human rights. She was a member of the pioneering cohort of Graduate Policy Scholars with the Clark-Fox Policy Institute. This selective learning opportunity offered immersive training and mentoring to understand social policy as a high-impact tool for positive social change.
Following graduation in May 2018, Yu was offered a summer field placement in Washington, D.C., with House Representative Debbie Wasserman Shultz. She is now working for Deloitte Consulting in Shanghai on various strategic projects.
“Shuqin was dedicated to advancing social policy and exploring every avenue the Brown School offers for building capacity to do this work,” said Gary Parker, Brown School associate dean of external affairs and director of the Clark-Fox Policy Institute. “She brought unique and valued contributions and an international perspective to the Brown School and the inaugural cohort of the Graduate Policy Scholars.” Of her courses at the Brown School, she remarked: “The equal dialogue between faculty and students and sharing of unique viewpoints in class discussions was so helpful to learning.”
Yu also feels the supportive community at the Brown School was key in her success as an international student.
“I appreciated the environment of caring, humanity, kindness and empathy shared by all the faculty members, professors and classmates at the Brown School,” she said. “In those moments when I thought I wasn’t doing my best, professors and classmates were encouraging me and guiding me.”
Continuing Our Connection
“We are so proud of the growth of this program, our strong ties to highly respected universities in China, and our connection to these dedicated students and alumni,” said Mary McKay, Neidorff Family and Centene Corporation Dean of the Brown School. “We look forward to many more opportunities to engage, educate and support students in the achievement of the career goals.”