Today@Sam Article

SHSU Students From China Explore Houston

March 27, 2017
SHSU Media Contact: Julia May

Water Garden
SHSU students from China who are currently criminal justice exchange students spent a day during Spring Break touring the Asia Society in Houston, where they observed a water garden with a view of the Houston skyline. 

Written by Mike Yawn

What do college students do for Spring Break when they are 12,000 miles from home? 

If you are a Chinese exchange student at Sam Houston State University and you have the support of the College of Criminal Justice and the Center for Law, Engagement and Politics, you visit a home away from home.

That home was the Asia Society in Houston.  Established in 1979 by Barbara Bush (whose husband, George, was Ambassador to China in the early 1970s), the Society got a facelift five years ago when architect Yoshio Taniguchi completed a new building.  The $48.8 million building is an architectural marvel, and it provided a rich educational opportunity for 11 SHSU Chinese students on the first day of Spring Break.

The students are part of a larger group who participate in the College of Criminal Justice’s exchange program with the Zhejiang Police College, and they are the seventh cohort to participate in this program.  These students, all selected from “the best of the best” in China, come to SHSU to focus on criminal justice and graduate with a dual degree from SHSU and Zhejiang Police College. 

Many of the students ended up in SHSU professor Mike Yawn’s Texas government class this semester and that has, in turn, evolved into some unique learning opportunities.  A little more than a week prior to Spring Break, the students sat in on a hearing by the Texas Supreme Court.  Following the hearing, they were able to meet the justices and have their photograph taken with them.

Nine days later, the students found themselves at the Asia Society, receiving formal tours of the non-profit organization’s structure and the art inside it.  The 40,000-foot structure is bounded on the south and north sides by a bamboo garden and a water garden, respectively.  The bamboo garden is seen from a large event venue, with glass windows maximizing the garden view; the water garden offers a beautiful view of the Houston skyline obscured partially by mist from the reflecting pool.   

For Zhuoping Shen, a senior at SHSU, the water garden was the best part of the building.

“Not only does the reflecting pool beautify the building, but it also uses cutting-edge technology to save water through recycling,” Shen said.

These sentiments were echoed by Liangli Wang, also a senior, who described the scene as a “fairyland on earth,” with the fog offering a “sense of comfort.”

We Heart Houston

The structure won the American Institute of Architects Houston Chapter’s “Houston Design Award” for a structure of less than 50,000 square feet.

“The art inside is pretty special, too,” Yawn said. “One of the exhibits, 3DPRK, is a reference to three-dimensional photography in the People’s Republic of Korea, more commonly referred to as North Korea.  The students enjoyed the different scenes from Korea as well as the 3-D glasses that allowed the full effect of the photography to be realized.”

The photographer, Matjaz Tancic, could only take photographs in locations permitted by the North Korean government, often with government-picked subjects.  The results reveal photographs that appear surreal, with overly posed workers taking center stage.  In one photograph, the subject insisted on kneeling in the foreground so that she would not tower over posters of Kim Il-sung, the founder of the PRK.  Evidence of North Korea’s military buildup (tanks, missiles) populate the mid-ground between the subject and the posters of Kim.

“Even more impressive is the exhibit on bamboo art, featured in the larger of the structure’s two galleries,” Yawn said.

The “Modern Twist” exhibit features 16 Japanese artists who work with some of Japan’s 600 species of bamboo to create intriguing sculptures.  A favorite among the students was “20 Triangles” which, as the name suggests, was made from 20 triangles of bamboo.  Another favorite was “Sailing,” an appropriate sea-based motif for art from an island nation.

“The concept of art was extended to the culinary sphere at lunch, where the students enjoyed Indian fare from Aga’s, a restaurant that offers goat brain among its menu options,” Yawn said. “There were no takers for the goat brain, although several students noted that pork brain was often offered in China.”

Before leaving Houston, the students were exposed to art closer to their new home, with a pit-stop in front of David Adickes’ “We Heart Houston” sculpture.  Adickes, a Huntsville native, also created the “Big Sam” statue on I-45, a piece of art the students were familiar with in Huntsville.

“It was a full day, one in which the students explored a bit of North Korea, Japan, India, and Houston,” Yawn said. “In a larger sense, it was also an exploration of their campus home, Sam Houston State University, whose educational opportunities extend far beyond the classroom walls.”




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