Top US film college targets Chinese students

Wesleyan University wants Chinese students to experience its US college culture and learn more about the value of its strong, interdisciplinary educational approach.

Wesleyan University, a private liberal arts college in the United States, wants Chinese students and their families to experience its college culture and learn more about the value of its strong, interdisciplinary educational approach.

A two-day forum was recently held in Huangpu District with the university's faculty and alumni to reveal how one of Wesleyan's best film programs in the US helps graduates excel on both sides of the camera by combining a broad and deep background in movie analysis and history. Moreover, its rigorous liberal arts curriculum helps develop sharp interdisciplinary and critical thinking skills as well.

"Last year the (name of the) university was translated into Chinese and we were going around various cities in China, talking about liberal education," said Michael Roth, president of Wesleyan University.

"Some people say that liberal education is very different from the kind of education that is prevalent in China today. It is very different from the exam-based education that many Chinese high school students have. But in the other way, liberal education is quite similar to a traditional Chinese approach to teaching and learning, sometimes is called the 'education of the whole person,' echoing with Confucius traditions."

Roth said the points of such an education include understanding how one should live as an individual and what kind of society one wants to build.

"That sounds pretty idealist,” Roth said. “Many parents and young students are interested in an education that will allow them to invent in the world, to make their way in the world. And liberal education takes that into account, especially the kind of liberal education that Wesleyan believes in. We call that pragmatic liberal education."

Michael Roth, president of Wesleyan University, gives a speech about Wesleyan's liberal education at the Liberal Arts + Film Forum held in Shanghai.

During the forum Scott Higgins, professor of film studies at Wesleyan, gave a lesson on Pixar's famous 3D computer-animated movie "Up" to give those in attendance a glimpse inside a Wesleyan film classroom.

Professor Higgins talked with students about the elements used in an “UP” film clip, including color, sound and way of transition, to discuss how these things help to express a character’s emotion and move the audience, as well as serving as the foundation of a future story.

Jon Turteltaub and Jon Hoeber, director and screenwriter of "The Meg," a science fiction action thriller film released this year, also gave talks at the forum. They are both Wesleyan alumni and both recalled days spent with their alma mater.

"I'm not so sure how different Wesleyan is from schools in China. But Wesleyan is even a little different from schools in the United States," said Turteltaub. "There are many types of universities and (Wesleyan) it's not what you study but how you study, how you approach the world.

"They don't want you to only do one thing. They want you to learn as many things as possible. So I left Wesleyan as a smarter, more sensitive and more aware person than when I got there."

Hoeber added, "They are trying to teach a way of seeing the world and a sort of skills that can be applied in any discipline."

Hoeber revealed he was in the science programs when he entered the university but later discovered the film and movie programs and the wannabe movie director ended up getting involved in that.

Jon Turteltaub, director of science fiction film "The Meg" and an alumnus of Wesleyan University, talks to young students at the Liberal Arts + Film Forum.

"I changed because they have all these incredible departments and they really encourage you to look all round the world and look all around yourself,” he said.

In his first visit to the university, when he was still a high school student, Hoeber found every student he met there was phenomenally good and interested in something.

"The student body was an exciting, vibrant group of people that I've never seen at school,” he said. “And all of a sudden, the idea of I could be part of this community overwhelmed me."

"The goal of liberal education is not to create very smart people who can talk with other smart people and say how smart they are," said Roth. "We want to create a situation where very thoughtful and talented people can transform their thoughtfulness and talents into works of art, into scientific experiments, into educational practices that will have wide impact on the world around."

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