A woman who grew up during the Cultural Revolution in China has risen to the top of her profession in the United States.
Hong Gang Jin, associate professor of Chinese at Hamilton College in Upstate New York, has been named the Outstanding Baccalaureate College Professor of the Year for 1998.
The award, which comes one year after Hamilton Professor of Geology Barbara Tewksbury was named the Professor of the Year for New York State, was announced at a luncheon today in Washington. It is presented by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and managed by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.
Jin says her primary responsibility as a language professor at a liberal arts college is "introducing students to different languages and cultures and making them aware of other ways to view the world."
"This award is an enormous honor for Hong Gang Jin and for our college," said Hamilton President Eugene M. Tobin, "and it is richly deserved."
"Many of us teach well," Tobin added. "Many do so with exceptional results and deserve the student acclaim they have earned. But only a handful of teachers have the capacity to make others work harder, feel better about their profession, and inspire them to dream of achieving similar greatness. Hong Gong Jin has that gift and Hamilton is extraordinarily fortunate to count her among our outstanding faculty."
Tobin cited Jin's work in language pedagogy, her development of innovative multimedia approaches to language instruction and her creation of a highly successful study abroad program as evidence of her pioneering approach to teaching. "She is," according to Tobin, "among the first, and certainly among the finest, of a new generation of teachers in the Chinese language field."
A Motivational Teacher
Alyssa Gillmeister, a 1998 Hamilton graduate, described Jin as a teacher who inspires students to challenge themselves.
"One of the most remarkable things about Professor Jin," according to Gillmeister, "is that no matter how much work she assigned, how unattainable her high standards seemed, how long and rough the road looked, what always remained the same was that she gave her students so much of herself . . . that we had to give as much back.
"She gave more than 200 percent and we did too," Gillmeister added, "because anything else would have been insulting to her, ourselves, and our collective dedication to learning."
Another former student said, "Professor Jin expects so much from her students only because she expects so much from herself."
In addition to the praise she has earned from her students, Jin's pioneering work in the Chinese language acquisition field has earned her a strong reputation among her peers.
"While she prepares meticulously for each class," one colleague said, "she also possesses to an unusual degree the ability to tailor her teaching to the specific needs of each student at that moment. Jin is very demanding of her students, not being satisfied with anything less than their best efforts, yet it is obvious to all that she cares deeply about every one of them. Most impressive is her ability to motivate her students and urge them on to ever greater achievement, even when they are temporarily overwhelmed by the challenges of learning a difficult language like Chinese.
"Her teaching is of the highest quality," he added, "the pedagogical materials she has developed are cutting-edge, and her dedication to her students is unmatched among the hundreds of instructors I have been associated with over the past 20 years."
A Pioneer in Language Pedagogy
While the focus of Jin's commitment to her students remains the classroom, Tobin said, she has used her enormous creativity and energy in designing new programs and teaching materials that in a very short time have become educational models.
Among her contributions to the Chinese language acquisition field are multimedia-oriented materials that evolved from an experimental study comparing the effectiveness of various methods used in teaching Chinese. With collaboration from Hamilton College Assistant Professor of Chinese De Bao Xu and financial support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Jin and Xu created a multimedia CD Rom and related publications that use authentic Chinese language materials (sound, movie excerpts, television shows and news. reports, photographs and animation) to provide instruction and cultural context for learning Chinese.
The CD and accompanying textbook and workbook for the intermediate level of Chinese language acquisition are complete and being used currently to supplement classroom instruction at Hamilton; the beginning- and advanced- level CDs and related materials are expected to be finished in the fall of 1999, although several of the lessons in those CDs are also currently in use.
Prof. Jin also conceived of, developed and acts as general director of the Associated Colleges in China Abroad Program at Capital University of Business and Economics in Beijing. The language-intensive curriculum for the program, which is sponsored and administered by Hamilton in collaboration with Oberlin, Williams and Kenyon colleges, was largely developed by Jin. It includes several unique features, including a Chinese-only language policy, highly individualized two-on-one and one-on-one classes, host families and weekly language projects. Although ACC was founded just three years ago, it is already ranked as one of the top three programs in China for its academic rigor, quality teaching, highly interactive and individualized activities, challenging curriculum and effective administration. There are currently 41 students studying in Beijing on the ACC program this fall, including eight students from Hamilton.
According to one expert in the Chinese language field, "... [T]he curricula in the Chinese program at Hamilton College and in the ACC program in Beijing - both of which were largely designed and written by Professor Jin - are considered by many in the field of Teaching of Chinese as a Foreign Language to rank among the most innovative Chinese language curricula in the world."
Hong Gang Jin (pronounced "hong-GONG-jin") came to the U.S. in 1984 to study at Oberlin College in Ohio, and then enrolled at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she received her master's degree and her Ph.D. While at Illinois, she was awarded the university's Outstanding Teacher Award in 1986, 1987 and 1988.
After receiving her doctorate, Jin came to Hamilton as an assistant professor of Chinese, East Asian Languages and Literature. She started the Chinese language program at Hamilton with 16 students, and today that program has grown to 54 students.
In 1994, Jin received Hamilton's highest teaching honor, "The Class of 1963 Award for Excellence in Teaching." Students who wrote in support of her nomination for the award stressed not only her superior teaching, but also her efforts to create a total Chinese cultural environment at Hamilton. Many cited the time she spends as advisor to the Asian Cultural Society and Phi Sigma Iota, the language honorary society. She also has brought to campus a large number of Asian cultural groups and events, and regularly makes Chinese dinners for her students. Last spring, she sponsored an Asian New Year Festival.
In addition to being the recipient of several academic honors, Jin, with De Bao Xu, her colleague and husband, established a student prize for excellence in Chinese language acquisition at Hamilton. The award, which is provided annually, is funded by royalties Jin and her husband receive from the books and other teaching materials they have published. The couple's long-term goal is to use the royalties to establish a scholarship for a student interested in studying Chinese at Hamilton.
The Cultural Revolution
Jin grew up in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province. Her father, a professional artist, graduated from the National Academy of Arts in China, one of the most prestigious art schools for traditional Chinese painting in the country, while her mother, who spoke several languages (including English, German, Russian, Romanian and Japanese) was one of the few female chemical engineers in China.
As bourgeoisie intellectuals, her parents were forced to undergo "re- education" in the countryside during the height of the Red Guards' persecution of the meritocracy. "They were born at the wrong time, in the wrong country," Jin says of the impact the Cultural Revolution had on her parents.
Jin, herself, was compelled to stop her schooling. Following high school, she was sent to the countryside where she worked first as a laborer in the fields, and then, at age 18, as a teacher in an elementary school. With no more than a high school diploma, she taught Chinese, history, physical education and music.
The following year, Jin was assigned back to the city, where she worked as a train conductor for the Taiyuan Railway Company. When the Cultural Revolution ended a short time later, she took the college entrance examination and enrolled at Shanxi University in Taiyuan, before ultimately making her way to the United States in 1984.
Today, Jin and her husband, De Bao Xu (duh-BOW-shoo), an assistant professor of Chinese at Hamilton, live in Clinton. They are the parents of two-year-old Ingrid Xu.
The Professor the Year Program
The Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) established the Professors of the Year program in 1981 and works with the Carnegie Foundation in its administration. It is the only national awards program that recognizes college professors for their teaching. More than 25 higher education associations support the program.
In 1995, the program was expanded so that national professors of the year were recognized in four categories according to the classifications of the Carnegie Foundation: Outstanding Community College Professor, Outstanding Baccalaureate College Professor, Outstanding Master's Universities and Colleges Professor and Outstanding Research and Doctoral University Professor. Winners in each state and the District of Columbia are also named, provided there are sufficient entries.
In making the award, judges consider the nominees' extraordinary dedication to undergraduate teaching. In particular, they review the nominees' impact on and involvement with undergraduate students; scholarly approach to teaching; service to undergraduate students, institution, community and profession; and support from colleagues and current and former undergraduate students.
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, a policy center located in Princeton, N.J., is devoted to strengthening America's schools and colleges.
The Council for the Advancement and Support of Education is an
international association of colleges, universities, and independent elementary and secondary schools. Representing these institutions are professionals in the fields of alumni relations, communications and fund raising.
Hamilton College is a highly selective residential college offering a
rigorous liberal arts curriculum. Students are challenged to think, write and speak critically, creatively and analytically so that upon graduation they may distinguish themselves in both their professions and their communities.