Although my research is focused primarily on Asia, my teaching engages with cities worldwide and emphasizes the connections between the global and the local. I teach a broad range of urban-oriented courses at UMASS at both the graduate and undergraduate levels which are aimed at students drawn from a wide range of disciplines, from civil engineering to urban planning as well as geography. I teach courses on urbanization in Asia, urban environmental history, regional inequality and urbanization in China, world cities, urban geography, urban issues in the developing world, the impacts of the Olympics and other mega-events on cities, and New England cities and towns. When possible my teaching is hands-on. For example, students in my urban environmental history course carry out field and archival research projects on local environmental issues; students in my urban geography class carry out group field projects mapping and analyzing local urban change; students in New England Cities and Towns take weekly class field trips to practice skills such as interviewing, mapping and surveying in a wide range of settings, from cemeteries to Habitat-for-Humanity projects.
Urban Geography (three courses): My urban geography teaching at the undergraduate level consists of three advanced undergraduate courses — Georaphy 370 – Urban Geography, Geography 372 – Urban Issues (earlier titled “Third World Cities”), and Geography 470 The Chinese City. The “Urban Geography” course is largely focused on the U.S. and Europe; the “Urban Issues” course is focused on cities of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Introductory Human Geography: I teach the introductory course, Geography 102 – The Human Landscape, as a broad-ranging introduction to contemporary global issues from the perspective of geography. This large general education course (approx 200 students) covers topics ranging from the origins and development of conflicts over culture and politics in southwest Asia (the “Middle East”) to crises in agriculture at home and abroad.
Geography of East Asia: In my upper-division course Geography 330 – East Asia, I place China, Japan and Korea in geographic perspective. I have shaped the course around themes ranging from physical geography to contemporary economic issues.
Field Course: I have also developed the geography program’s “integrative experience” course as Geography 486 Field Methods in Geography. This class has two goals: to introduce students to field research methods in human geography and to explore aspects of urban life in New England from historic development to contemporary problems. We focus on field techniques which are most effectively learned on the ground, such as analytical observation, mapping, photography and interviewing. The course includes group and individual field projects centered on three overarching themes in geography – defining regions, continuity and change, and inequality and uneven development.
Writing in Geography: The University of Massachusetts requires all students to take a “junior (3rd ) year writing course” within their major departments as part of the requirements toward completion of their undergraduate degrees. This course (Geography 314) serves not only as a writing course but also an introduction to the profession of geography and a core component in all of our majors’ preparation for both successful completion of their geography degrees at UMASS and their future career planning.
Urban Geography: My graduate seminars address two very different topics: urban issues in Asia and urban environmental history/issues; I alternate these two topics as two different advanced seminars. Geography 670 – Urban Environmental History and Geography 697 – China: Regional Inequality & Urbanization. The materials covered in these intensive discussion and research-based seminars varies in response to each semester’s student interest and my own research priorities. In recent years Urban Environmental History has included a literature survey component in which we trace the development of the field of urban environmental history, a case study component, in which we read recent case studies (primarily U.S. based) and a field research component, in which students carry out individual and group research projects on local environmental history topics. China: Regional Inequality and Urbanization focuses on contemporary issues in Chinese urban change and development with special attention to the regional differences in development which have accompanied China’s rapid growth in recent years. The course emphasizes analyses of the relationships between the approaches in urban development practiced in the rising east coast cities and those approaches taken in the interior.
Geographical Theory and Analysis: Geography 604 – Geographical Theory and Analysis is an introductory seminar required for all incoming grad students in the geography program. The course as I teach it involves introducing students to the development of major trends in the field of geography and providing guidance on how to write thesis and grant proposals. The course is thematically arranged to focus on contemporary theoretical and methodological trends and issues in a number of geographic subfields. The students first write a paper on the development of their subfield of geography, then write a mock thesis proposal, and finally transform the thesis proposal into a grant proposal.