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Pacific's partnership with Shanghai Normal University Tianhua College concludes with 30 doctors of education

Shanghai Normal University Tianhua College doctoral graduates

Shanghai Normal University Tianhua College doctoral graduates commemorate their achievement with a photograph on the steps of the Tianhua College campus.

Apr 15, 2020
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University of the Pacific celebrated the end of its 10-year partnership with Shanghai Normal University Tianhua College in December with 30 students graduating with doctors of education degrees and forging lifelong relationships with Pacific faculty and their colleagues in China.

The last eight members of the program graduated and were joined in a Dec. 27 celebration by Tianhua College administrators and fellow participants, said Mille Xu, associate dean for the college’s School of Early Childhood Education.

“We are all grateful for this wonderful and tremendous experience with Pacific,” she said.

Jin Gong, the former dean of the Graduate School, Michael Elium, former assistant dean of the Benerd School of Education, and Rongxiang Zou, the chairman of the board of Tianhua College, began the program in March 2010.

Originally, 35 instructors at Tianhua College joined the program to earn their doctorate in education degrees from Pacific, said Betsy Keithcart, visiting assistant professor for Benerd College. 

Three cohorts rotated through the doctoral program over the years. Pacific instructors traveled to Shanghai to teach initial doctoral courses for a few weeks in the summer to provide an orientation to the program. Each year, a new group rotated through the summer courses and then lived in Stockton for a year of residency to take courses and prepare for their dissertations. After the year of study in Stockton, the cohorts completed coursework online and then developed their dissertation proposals.

The doctoral candidates presented their proposals online, while three Pacific committee members, including the chair, worked remotely with each candidate during their dissertation inquiry process, said Keithcart, who served as a dissertation adviser for the last eight students to complete the program.

The students completed their doctoral proposals, Institutional Review Board approval, collection of data and defense of their dissertations all in English, which was not their primary language, she said. Their dissertations are impressive contributions to the literature and research, particularly in the field of preschool and kindergarten education, as well as advances in higher education in China, Keithcart said.

“Pacific has a very special meaning to me and my family, and it is part of my life and my label,” said Zhen Hu, director of the Office of International Programs, and 2013 graduate. “(I am) grateful for all the people at Pacific and College of Education. A special thanks to my committee chair and members (former Benerd Dean Lynn Beck, associate professor Justin Low and Student Life’s Executive Director of Planning and Assessment Sandy Mahoney). You are my role models.”

In December, the last Tianhua cohort was joined by past members for a graduation celebration. The group — each graduate dressed in graduation regalia — took a photograph at the Tianhua campus to commemorate their achievement. 

Each graduate has received a promotion at Tianhua College and granted more opportunities for influencing partnerships with other institutions of higher education in other countries.

“The Tianhua-Pacific Ed. D program gave me an excellent learning experience, which will have a lifelong influence on me,” said Xu, who graduated in December 2019 as part of the last cohort. “Thanks to the insightful Tianhua Board of Directors (and) supportive and friendly Pacific faculties who make this program a great success. At the end of this program, I am grateful to those who have helped the Tianhua cohort in the past nine years and will dedicate myself to Tianhua to express my gratitude. And I will be for sure a faithful Pacific Tiger in my life.”

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