BUFFALO, NY - Michael J. Forest, PhD, is spending the 2014-2015 academic year a half-a-world away from Canisius. Forest is in Beijing, China participating in the J. William Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State (Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs), the program deploys American faculty and professionals to more than 125 countries around the world, each year, to teach or conduct research.
Forest is an associate professor of philosophy assigned to work at Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU). He will teach undergraduate and graduate students about American philosophy. The subjects Forest will teach are related to his scholarship and include American transcendentalism of the 19th century and American pragmatism in the 19th and 20th centuries.
His goal, however, is to not only introduce Chinese students to American philosophy but “to introduce them to the style of teaching that is typical at American colleges and universities.” He explains that the American educational system is fundamentally different from the Chinese. “Ours is about getting students to interpret information and critically evaluate it through discussion and questions.” The educational background of Chinese culture, explains Forest, emphasizes memorization and the ability to perform on standardized tests. “There is very little, if any, interaction between students and their professors,” he adds. “Part of my challenge will be to break down those barriers and encourage the Chinese students to engage critically in classroom discussions.”
This is Forest’s second Fulbright. He received a similar grant in 2007, which he used to teach American philosophy at Xiamen University in the Fujian province of southeast China.
The J. William Fulbright Scholarship is named for Senator J. William Fulbright and is designed to foster mutual understanding among nations through educational and cultural exchanges.