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SIS Welcomes Two Visiting Scholars from China

SIS welcomed two visiting scholars this fall, Professor Tao Yang (left) and Associate Professor Wei Wei Zhang (right). Visiting scholars pursue their research while here, and also observe SIS faculty and students during their stays. It is an opportunity for them to learn about educational practices and enjoy United States college traditions.

Yang is a professor and director of the planning and research department at South China Normal College in Guangzhou, China. He and SIS Associate Professor Awa Zhu were in a master’s program together in China, and she is his sponsor for his year-long visit here. The two once co-authored a paper together about some of the differences between Chinese and American students.

Yang is studying library science, and his research specifically looks at user behavior in libraries.

“I want to cooperate with the [SIS] professors, do qualitative research, and deepen my research in the library user study,” he said. “My main focus is academic libraries, but I also want to learn something about the public libraries. The public libraries in our country, especially in Guangzhou, are developing very fast.”

This is the first time he’s ever been to the United States, and he’s spent some time exploring parts of Knoxville during his stay, and he hopes to take a trip to the Smoky Mountains soon. He and Zhang both attended the College of Communication & Information’s 50thGala event recently, which made an impact on him.

“The gala was very good, there were so many alumni. The most important thing I saw is that the college is very good to students. They place the students first,” he said.

Zhang is an associate professor at Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology, and is visiting through this December. Her sponsor is SIS Professor Peiling Wang, whose work Zhang found while doing searches for scholars with similar research interests as her own.

“We had common interests, so I contacted her. We both research information studies and information behavior, online academic resources, and how to evaluate those academic information resources,” Zhang said.

She’s also sat in on several of the SIS faculty members’ classes, and said she definitely sees how the classes and students are different in the United States than in China. Yang and Zhang also had the opportunity to present their work to SIS faculty

“I really like to share my academic research and teaching experience with peers internationally. Also, I like to introduce my university to the faculty here and welcome them to visit China and our university,” Zhang said. “We talked after the presentation about the research I conducted and I really had a good time here.”

Zhang has made the most out of her first visit to the United States, and took several weeks to travel the entire East Coast, from Niagara Falls, New York, to Key West, Florida, with her family. She said it was a very busy and exciting trip.

It’s not just the visiting scholars who benefit from these host arrangements – it is also an advantage to SIS faculty, who get an opportunity to work with others from outside of the school and the country.

“We are very excited about the opportunity to host Professor Yang and Associate Professor Zhang. They both bring with them years of experience teaching and doing research in the information sciences. We look forward to learning from them, and also sharing some of our own local traditions,” said SIS Director Diane Kelly.