By Micaela Myers
After Dianbing Chen graduates from the University of Wyoming in spring 2014 with his Ph.D. in educational leadership, he’ll head back to China to decide which of the many job offers he wants to accept. “There are already four universities that want me to work there in China,” Chen said in early March.
Chen earned his master’s degree at UW and stayed for his Ph.D., while his wife, Xinxiao Yang, earned her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction and returned to China to teach at a university. “Most of the universities in China want to reform,” Chen says. “They realize there are some problems in China.” He says these universities value what Chen and his wife can offer in terms of new ideas and best practices.
“We can take what we learned here—the strong points [of this system]—and see how we can adjust it and make it a benefit for the Chinese students.”
Chen believes all systems have their pluses and minuses. “My philosophy is that in every culture there are good things and bad things. We, as researchers and educators, need to learn from the good things.”
In the United States, he appreciates the resources for teachers and students in schools. “Even the elementary schools have libraries and computers,” he says. “The teachers can use all those resources to better help the students to develop, grow and achieve. In China, I’d say only schools in the big cities have all those resources.”
Chen wants to see educational resources more evenly distributed in his home country. “That’s one thing we need to learn,” he says. “Especially now that I’m in educational leadership, I’m constantly thinking about how we—China—can do that.
“I did a presentation in April at the Shepard Symposium on Social Justice. My topic was education for all.”
During his time at UW, Chen’s research has focused on cross-cultural education and culturally responsive leadership. As universities become increasingly global, this topic becomes vitally important.
U.S. universities are enrolling international students more than ever now, but Chen says many of those students don’t find the programs culturally responsive. Universities may not have the resources to help students with language issues or the transition process.
“The international students pay the tuition—there’s a huge amount of money they contribute to the American gross—then they just put the student into a program,” he says. “Sometimes the professors find out that their English isn’t that good, and they don’t want that student because he/she needs to be trained in the language first. If you are culturally responsive, you need to find a way to do that since you enrolled those students. … I know sometimes it’s hard. As educators, we need to address that.”
UW enrolls students from 94 countries and all 50 states, and one way the university works to meet the needs of international and minority students is through the Multicultural Student Leadership Initiative. “I have been a mentor for four years,” Chen says. “The program is designed to help first-year minority or international students to make their transition from high school to college easier. That’s our goal. I’ve been working with some amazing students and staff there.”
In China, Chen says multicultural education is not yet a discipline, something he hopes to help change. When he taught in China previously, he worked with teachers from around the world and saw the need for culturally responsive leadership.
He valued his time in Wyoming. “It’s an ideal place for a scholar and a researcher,” he says.
Chen looks forward to applying what he learned with the next generation of teachers and leaders back in China. He says, “I’ll teach the teachers how to teach and teach the principals how to be good leaders.”
One of the 10 Cowboy Ethics adopted by UW is “Take pride in your work.” Dianbing Chen demonstrates this principle through his dedication to culturally responsive educational leadership.