Summer Institute for Chinese Studies Held at Pitt

SICS scholars gather during a break from the conference.

Scholars from across three continents convened at the University of Pittsburgh’s Asian Studies Centers during the week of May 26-June 1, 2019 for the inaugural meeting of the Summer Institute for Chinese Studies (SICS).  The Asian Studies Center, in collaborative partnerships with Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation Inter-University Center for Sinology, USA (CCK-IUC), designed the Summer Institute to allow senior scholars of Asian Studies to meaningfully engage ten “early career scholars” in their research and scholarship throughout the week.  Scholars presented on a range of fascinating topics related to this year’s seminar’s themes of Science, Technology, and Medicine.  Presentations ranged from Health Caring in Daoist Ritual to Confucian Ethics in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. Participants formally presented their research each day, and then engaged in a series of panel discussions, workshops, critiques, pedagogical mentoring, and lectures for the purpose of developing Chinese Studies courses.  The week was punctuated with group outings to visit the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens medicinal garden, the East Asian Library at the University of Pittsburgh, and the Taste of Taiwan food festival in Oakland’s vibrant walking neighborhood.

As the program evolves over the years, SICS will focus on the relationship between teaching, publishing and the production of knowledge through multi-media salons, blogs, curating exhibits, creative non-fiction writing, op-ed writing, and digitization of libraries, among other objectives.

Overall, the Summer Institute proved to be an enriching and helpful experience for both young and senior scholars.  Meaningful professional relationships and networks were cultivated through the seminar, and opportunities for increased scholarship and intellectual growth were fostered by the level and rigor of inquiry and analysis throughout the sessions. The scholars were able to connect across disciplines and research interests, with their passion for Chinese Studies serving as the overall foundation for what proved to be a stimulating and fascinating week.



Interview with Catherine Fratto

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Catherine Fratto joined the Asian Studies Center in May of 2019 as Engagement Coordinator.  She will work within the Asian Studies Center and across all six UCIS centers to develop and deliver K-12 curriculum and programming for teachers and students, as well as engage with the university-wide community and regional communities through UCIS programming and events.  We caught up with her to ask her a few questions about her work at the Center.

Tell us about your background.  What brought you to the University of Pittsburgh?

Before taking this position with the ASC, I was a high school History for 14 years.  I taught World History to 10th graders, and really enjoyed developing a curriculum that incorporated a great deal of Asian Studies content in my classes. We worked with a lot of primary source documents on a daily basis in our study of the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. I also taught AP US History to 11th graders for about 12 years, and in that course, I was able to touch on the interactions between the U.S. and Asia at pivotal points throughout the 18th-21st centuries. As a high school educator, I took part in a number of Asian Studies-related professional development opportunities, as well, ranging from Pitt’s National Consortium for Teachers of Asia 12-week institute for teachers to book discussion seminars through the NCTA and UCIS’s Global Studies Center to National Endowment for the Humanities summer institutes related to US foreign policy with Asia. Before I became a teacher, I was a curator at the Heinz History Center, where I created exhibits and programming related to western Pennsylvania immigration history.  I did a lot of research and writing in this capacity, and presented to community groups on a regular basis. The position with the Asian Studies Center at UCIS was a great opportunity for me to continue to develop and share my skills and interests related to research, writing, education, outreach, and programs.

What are some aspects of your new position that you are excited about?

I am very excited to work with my colleagues in the Asian Studies Center who are all super smart, accomplished, hard-working, engaging, and supportive. There are so many outstanding programs that are already in place at the ASC, and it will be exciting to support their continued success and to develop new programs and engagement opportunities, as well. Also, I am enjoying getting to know and work with my colleagues in the other five UCIS centers, who are also integral to so much of the amazing programming that comes out of UCIS. I am working hand in hand with the other two engagement coordinators—Susan Dawkins of the Russian and Eastern European Studies Center, and Samantha Moik of the European Studies Center—to strengthen and grow UCIS’s overall mission of internationalizing the university through engagement with K-16 schools and their communities and within Pitt.

What is a piece of wisdom that you have learned from your other professional positions that you feel will impact or be helpful to you in this position?

I would say that the ability to stay curious and hungry for knowledge is an important piece of wisdom I have learned, and that I hope to keep with me not only in this position but for the rest of my life. No matter what role you hold or where you work, there will always be something new to learn and someone who can teach you new things, which is an amazing and humbling experience to behold on a daily basis.  It keeps the world fresh and interesting, and allows you to grow both personally and professionally and to better your capabilities. It helps you to remember that the world is a big place and that there are many paths one can navigate to arrive at new knowledge. Pitt is an exciting and vibrant place for me and many others in this regard.