Fulbright Scholar in Residence Dr. Arden Chao

Kylee Sanders

Junior Editor

It’s been nearly twenty years since the University of the South has had a Fulbright Scholar in Residence as a part of its teaching staff. This year, that has changed with the arrival of Dr. Arden Chao. 

For those who may not know, the Fulbright Program is a cultural exchange program where students, teachers, professionals, and scholars may be given scholarships or grants to teach, study, research, or exercise any of their academic talents abroad in other countries. Dr. Chao has come with his family from his home institution in Taiwan to teach modern Asian history at the University of the South for the 2023-2024 academic year. 

Before coming here, Dr. Chao taught in China as an assistant professor from 2018 to 2020. Once leaving China, he went to Taiwan to continue his research more freely, which is when he “received the opportunity to come here [Sewanee]” from the Fulbright Program. Having the opportunity to come to a democratic country was a chance for him to explore his research topic in depth. “Another reason that is more personal is I visited the United States as a seventh grader and loved it,” he says. He adds he wants to see what “the evolution of democracy” is like, particularly how the U.S. has changed politically since his last visit. 

Dr. Kelly J. Whitmer, the chair of the history department, played a prominent role in bringing Dr. Chao to the University. She has been connected to the Fulbright Program since she was a Fulbrighter and was aware of the opportunities to enhance the department’s offerings and curriculum. “Right at this moment, we’re trying to globalize our curriculum,” Dr. Whitmer says, “Dr. Cooper [currently the only professor teaching Asian history] has been teaching Asian history for us now for a couple of years and is wonderful,” she thought, “bringing someone else here, from Asia, to enhance her offerings and expertise could be wonderful.”

From there, she began to look into the Scholar in Residence program and discuss it with other professors. Hilary Dow Ward helped Dr. Whitmer with the logistics of the application process and once their application was approved, a group of candidates was put together by the U.S. State Department. The group of professors interviewed the candidates and then chose Dr. Chao.

Dr. Chao and Dr. Claire Cooper will be working collaboratively this year with “a combination of teaching as well as, we’re hoping, some general University activities,” she explains. The two of them are co-teaching a history course called “China: Inside the Great Wall.” It has recently been made into a writing intensive course this semester, so “we’re taking a much more thematic, very standard liberal arts approach to this class rather than a traditional history approach. We’re teaching two sections of it, which is fun because we get to see a variety of students,” Dr. Cooper says. Outside of teaching, they hope to get a workshop or conference organized with more Asian scholars from the Southeast region, where they can discuss Asian studies here at Sewanee. 

Dr. Chao and Dr. Cooper hope to be able to co-teach again in the spring. “For students and faculty and the community at large, if they have the opportunity to interact formally or informally with Dr. Chao, it will be a great benefit. He is so energetic. He’s always willing to teach. If you see him on campus, feel free to ask him questions about news related to China and East Asia,” Dr. Cooper says. 

Dr. Chao is grateful to be here and have this opportunity. He looks forward to working with everyone and would love to be included in campus events, so if you see him around campus, say hello, and to reiterate Dr. Cooper’s comment, feel free to ask him questions about East Asian history.

On Thursday, October 5, at 4:30 p.m. in Gailor Auditorium, the Sewanee community will have a chance to hear from Dr. Chao at a welcome lecture and reception. The lecture is titled Ritual of Mandate: Unraveling China’s Election Journey.

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