Summer Institute Enrolls Record Number, Advances MSP at the Brown School

Global; Policy; Social Work; Students

The Brown School’s Summer Institute celebrated its largest and most impactful year yet, with 120 enrolled students from the U.S. and China and an additional 160 visiting guests. The two, week-long courses were led by Brown School faculty, with seminars led by five faculty from Fudan University in China as part of the Brown Schools Master’s in Social Policy Program.

“What really stood out to me was the cross-country, cross-cultural exchange in social policy,” said Dan Ferris, assistant dean for policy initiatives. “It reflects the larger global mission of the MSP program.” A good example was the Comparative Education Policy class, led by Jason Jabbari and Tammy Orahood. Experts in the very different education systems of the United States and China shared analysis methods and drew from each other to learn about different systems. A similar dynamic took place in the class on Social Entrepreneurship & Social Policy, led by Heather Cameron.

The Institute began in 2016 under the leadership and vision of Shenyang Guo, the Frank J. Bruno Distinguished Professor of Social Work Research — building on the connections and deep relationships among faculty from the Brown School and leading universities in China. “It’s an important opportunity for the Brown School through its MSP program to bring international students and U.S. students together in a global space,” Ferris said. This year’s Institute was coordinated by the Brown School’s Zizi Xu Shillig, global programs manager with support from two graduate student assistants: Dawen Gao (MSP) and Yizhou Fang (MSW).

The classes were held virtually to provide wider access, with instructors and students embracing the online classroom environment and navigating multiple time zones. Previously offered in-person each summer in China, the annual institute was canceled in 2020 and then moved online in 2021 due to significant COVID-19 travel restrictions. Instructors and administrative supporters used various ways to help students with different English levels adjust to a global classroom environment. This innovative teaching approach included offering simultaneous interpretation, incorporating bilingual learning materials, and inviting multilingual guest presenters and discussants. Brown School students and their Fudan counterparts actively participated in classroom discussions with instructors and guest speakers.

Post-class evaluations were positive.

“Being in a class where most of the students were from China was also really great exposure to other cultures and values,” one participant said. Comments shared by my peers in this class challenged me to examine my personal values and the role culture plays in forming my opinions. Taking a course with a partner university offers many benefits and I would definitely take this class again!”

Summer Institute 2023 will be held in July with more details available in the spring.