Ying Wang

Citation for 2010 Mount Holyoke College Faculty Award for Teaching

Few faculty members have traveled as far to reach Mount Holyoke– in physical or cultural distance – as Ying Wang. Born in Beijing, she grew up in the turbulent decades of Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward and Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, when educated urban teenagers served the state through exile in rural villages. After three years in the countryside, far from home and family, she entered Beijing Normal University to nurture her lifelong fascination with Chinese literature. Through a fellowship at Smith, an M.Ed. from the University of South Carolina, and a Ph.D. at the University of Toronto, she also became one of the Anglophone world’s most effective teachers of the Chinese language.

Few pedagogical tasks can equal language instruction in complexity, for we demand that our students suspend the intimate sounds and cadences of their mother tongue and express themselves accurately in an alien idiom. How to structure efficient, effective daily learning? How to keep their interest? How to persuade them that the grind will produce worthy results? Ying Wang has mastered this process for an extremely difficult language, building Mount Holyoke’s Chinese program from two levels to four, enrolling as many as 90 students per year. Her leadership has created the best Chinese program in the Five College area.

Adept with the latest technology, “Wang Laoshi” holds her students’ attention with computer games and multimedia presentations, as well as old-fashioned memorization. Compassionate and firm in the classroom, she gives unstintingly of herself. Four years ago she made the dizzyingly complex arrangements for Mount Holyoke students to spend the summer at Beijing Language and Culture University taking intensive Chinese. Since then, she has sacrificed her summer research and writing to direct the program, a task comparable to herding teenage cats in Central Park. As a side benefit, she created an exchange relationship that brings a BLCU instructor to Mount Holyoke every year to augment our teaching staff.

Aside from pedagogical research (she has written two textbooks), program-building, and teaching in three of our four levels of Chinese, Prof. Wang also excels as a scholar-teacher of Chinese literature. Our students flock to her courses—on women in Chinese literature, the great 18th century novel Dream of the Red Chamber, and contemporary Chinese fiction—for they add an invaluable dimension to their experience of Chinese culture. Her research and writing, focusing on 19th century China’s underappreciated novels, illuminate a bright facet of that “dark” century, usually characterized as one of foreign domination and cultural stagnation.

Hundreds of Mount Holyoke students are, and will be, grateful for the doors to Chinese culture, literature, and communication opened by Ying Wang. We are fortunate to be a station on her long journey, and we honor her dedication, commitment, and skill.