July 30, 2018
Hongkun Wei is a PhD candidate in American studies at Shanghai International Studies University (SISU). Wei first became interested in studying the US as a high school student, when he took an American history class. Upon graduation, he became an English teacher, through which he was able to conduct research on American studies.
After five years of working Wei knew that the job “was not enough for him.” He thus applied to the doctorate program in American studies at Shanghai International Studies University.
Wei primarily conducts research on different cultural trends in American society. He is writing his thesis, for example, on American cultural wars at the end of the 20th century. He also studies the American higher education system and mainline religion in the US.
Wei’s American studies program has about five doctorate students each year. Additionally, the program is highly adaptable, and its main focuses change depending on the students’ academic interests. Generally speaking, his program places more emphasis on the political and historical aspects of American society than on literature or pop culture.
His program, however, still includes a broad array of courses, including 21st Century American Culture, American Thought, Modern American Women Studies, and US Diplomatic History. SISU’s library has a large collection of foreign books, some of which have been donated by the U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai, by Fulbright professors, and by the Asia Foundation.
Currently, Wei is applying for a post-doctorate research position at Illinois State University’s Department of History. If he is accepted, this will be his first opportunity to conduct academic research in the US.
“After graduating, I want to teach students about American culture and society,” Wei said.
He shared that in his program, a large number of students go to America to conduct research at graduate studies programs. He believes American studies programs uniquely prepare students to succeed in the US because “on the one hand, language is very important to study [there].” On the other hand, he said “basic knowledge about US society is important.”
Previously Wei had the opportunity to participate in the ASN Conference at Wuhan University. “I think it was an amazing experience for me,” he said. “I [had the opportunity] to attend a lot of courses by foreign speakers.”
He is also planning on participating in the upcoming conference at ECNU, where he will submit a research proposal for review.
American Studies lies at the core of USCET’s organizational mission. This profile is part of a series to highlight various students across China who are majoring in American Studies and who plan to use it in their careers.