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Minnesota and China Connect

Students plan business strategy using diagrams
December 4, 2017

New cultural entrepreneurship spring class links two classrooms on opposite sides of the globe.

The UMD student’s phone buzzes as she heads to her night class. It’s a photo in WeChat. She sees skyscrapers overlooking Qingdao’s Yellow Sea on her screen. The tree branches bend from the wind. It’s morning in Qingdao, not quite 8 a.m.

“Ready for class?” the caption reads. She looks up and sees snow falling on the Chester Park hill to her right, and lights twinkle along the Lake Superior shoreline ahead.

She clicks the shutter. “Just finished the assignment!” she replies and sends her message back. Her cell phone clock reads 7 p.m. Both students hurry to make it to class.

Two Countries, One Class

This time difference will not prevent students from UMD and Ocean University in Qingdao from collaborating on projects throughout the course, which is only 7-weeks long. In this new spring 2017 cultural entrepreneurship class, UMD students will have the opportunity to work with students 11 time zones away from Duluth.

“We have partnered with Ocean University to make our cultural entrepreneurship (CUE) program even more unique,” says Aparna Katre, assistant professor of cultural entrepreneurship. “For the first time we will offer a class here that will run parallel to one in China. It’s our CUE1001: Introduction to Culture Industries and Creative Economy.”

Students at both universities will complete the same assignments and readings, and will collaborate on projects throughout the semester, as the course is about 40 percent project-based. Projects will center around topics involving cultural and creative economies and the students will work in teams to come up with creative and enterprise ideas.

UMD student Levi Staine and his Ocean University classmates.

UMD student Levi Staine and his Ocean University classmates in Qingdao in summer 2017.

They also can actually create a business opportunity that touches on both cultures.

“The whole idea is that students get really deep experience working across cultures and they will pick up topics that are in the cultural and creative industries,” Katre says.

A fair will be held at the end of the semester at both universities, where students will be able to showcase their work.

The Student Perspective

Levi Staine, a Chinese and psychology double major, studied abroad in China on a program with Dr. Weiqing Zhang. While there, he and 14 other UMD students took Aparna’s cultural entrepreneurship class, where they collaborated with students from Ocean University. He had such a good experience, he now plans to return to Ocean University to earn his PhD.

“Taking the class would be a really good opportunity for a lot of people, because looking at the economy from the perspective of somebody living in 2017 is really interesting,’ Levi says. “Most economy classes teach business over the years, whereas this one teaches what business is like right now.”

Katre will teach the spring semester course at UMD in cooperation with faculty at Ocean University. She is sure the students in the spring 2018 CUE1001 class will have a remarkable experience. The 3-credit class will fulfill a UMD liberal education global perspectives requirement, and is open to anyone. “Students should sign up quickly, if they are interested,” Katre says. There are only 20 openings in the unique and innovative course.

Photo above: A group of students in the summer 2017 class in Qingdao work on their strategy.

About the Cultural Entrepreneurship program