Following the successful implementation of a three-year pilot program, Chapman University and Shanghai Normal University (SNU, also known as SHNU) have further expanded their partnership. Beginning in fall 2020, a second cohort of students from SNU have enrolled in the Attallah College of Educational Studies Ph.D. in Education program.

“It has been a wonderful experience teaching and learning from our first cohort of SNU Ph.D. students,” said Dr. Dawn Hunter, Co-Director of the Ph.D. in Education program. “We are excited to continue this partnership and welcome new students to our program. Both institutions feel the students and faculty involved will continue to benefit from exposure to educational practices in other parts of the world.”

Dr. Dawn Hunter in Shanghai with Chapman-SNU Ph.D. students in January 2020

Dr. Dawn Hunter in Shanghai with Chapman-SNU Ph.D. students in January 2020

Cohort 1 Pilot Program

In fall 2018, the first cohort of 13 students from SNU joined the incoming Chapman 2018 Ph.D. in Education cohort, taking courses side-by-side their fellow US-based students on Chapman’s Orange campus.

The SNU students spent their first year living and studying in Orange County. In year two, the students returned to China where they completed their remaining Ph.D. courses. Attallah College faculty visited the SNU campus for periods of in-person instruction in the fall 2019 and interterm 2020 semesters, until travel restrictions were implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now in their final year, the initial cohort of SNU students will remain in China while completing their research and doctoral dissertations. Dr. Hunter is teaching a class dedicated to dissertation support this semester, and she and their Attallah College doctoral advisors are in frequent contact to support the students’ dissertation work.

Cohort 2 Initial Study and Research Training

Ten new Chapman-SNU Ph.D. students began online classes in August 2020. With this second cohort, the program has been expanded to four years. Similar to the first SNU cohort, this second set of doctoral students, who are all enrolled in Chapman’s Ph.D. Leadership Studies emphasis program, are mid-career faculty or administrative professionals from public and private universities in the Shanghai area.

Weiyi Xia, who is a member of the English faculty at Xianda College’s Shanghai International Studies University (SISU), is excited to learn how to conduct research under the guidance and supervision of Chapman faculty.

“From orientation to course curriculum design, I am so impressed by the professionalism of the Attallah College faculty members,” said Weiyi Xia. “I hope to apply what I learn from this program to my future teaching practice.”

Under the original partnership proposal, the SNU students were to complete their initial coursework in China and then come to Chapman in year two to study in the United States. Chapman faculty had planned to travel to China for periods of in-person instruction during year one. However, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the SNU students are taking online courses with Chapman Ph.D. faculty this fall.

During her last trip to China in January 2020, Dr. Hunter was fortunate to meet with and interview each of the new SNU students in the second Ph.D. cohort. That face-to-face interaction helped jump-start the program and eased the unexpected transition to fully remote instruction.

“If everything goes well, this second cohort will move to the United States to attend courses with their US-based peers here on the Chapman campus in July 2021,” said Ryan Allen, Ph.D., Attallah College Assistant Professor and Chapman-SNU Program Coordinator.

Mentorship and Networking

The expanded four-year program is still a rigorous timeline, said Dr. Hunter. The additional year gives the students more time to explore and compare effective educational and research practices as well as further develop their English language and writing skills.

The new SNU cohort is also benefitting from mentorship opportunities with the first cohort of Chapman-SNU students. Chapman faculty have encouraged interaction between the two cohorts.

“This is a first step in establishing a Chapman alumni community in China and Shanghai,” said Dr. Allen. “We anticipate our students based in China will maintain those relationships throughout their program, as they advance through each stage of their doctoral program, and beyond.”


For more about Chapman’s Attallah College of Educational Studies, visit our undergraduate program, master’s and doctoral program, and faculty research webpages.