Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Běidà!

I just received this news from the U.S. Embassy in Běijīng:

We have proposed to the Ministry of Education your placement at the Peking University School of Government. I'll be contacting you with more information from the school that is of a time sensitive nature regarding the course titles they propose you teach! I know that this has happened all very quickly, and that we were talking with you about a couple options, but we have had to move ahead in the interest of time. However, Peking University is the "Harvard" of China…and I'm very hopeful that this placement will work out extremely well. Thank you!!

No, thank you! This is really the best news...the city we deep down hoped to be living in, plus a university that is at the top of the heap. Wow!

~Steve

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dogs Eating Bones

Chew dogs, chew!

~Steve

Monday, May 19, 2008

Research across Disciplines

I've lately had interdisciplinary research on my mind. You know, the kind of work that transcends the boundaries of traditions that normally stand on their own. One might, for example, view the issue of climate change from the perspective of an ecologist (what is happening to the habitats of polar bears). This problem could also be approached from a politics perspective (the designation of polar bears as endangered species).

The reason I've been thinking about bringing multiple disciplines together is that I've been told that Chinese universities are pretty bad when it comes breaking down traditional barriers. (Not that American universities are that great either, but we are apparently well ahead of China in this regard.) And this matters because much of the research I do spans the boundaries of neighboring fields like political science and public administration.

This really is the great unknown of the trip to China. I have no doubt that we, as a family, will have a fantastic experience living, working, and going to school in Chinese society. And I am sure that my classroom experiences will be very rewarding. But will I be able to cultivate ties that lead to ongoing collaborations with Chinese researchers in a number of different fields? I have set high aims for myself on this score, but I am well aware that I may end up falling flat on my face.

In the meantime, I recently published some thoughts on the value, and difficulty, of studying the United States bureaucracy from a multidisciplinary point of view. Specifically, I wrote a review of a recent book that seeks to do just that, Bureaucracy in a Democratic State: A Governance Perspective by Ken Meier and Larry O'Toole. This review appears in the April issue of the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. Essentially, the punch line is that we ought to "think like public administrationists and act like political scientists." If this kind of academic-speak appeals to you, then go check it out! For the rest of you...congratulations on your sound judgment!

~Steve