Beverly J. Butcher, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Chair, & Director, NYIT Center for Humanities and Culture at NUPT
Department: English School: College of Arts and Sciences Campus: Nanjing
Member of NYIT Since: 2010
In 2009, when Beverly J. Butcher, Ph.D., was employed at a university in northern Florida, she taught courses on multicultural literature and writing as well as the work of female authors in China. It was the latter courses on the writings of Nobel Prize winner Pearl Buck's The Exile and Fighting Angel and Anchee Min's Red Azalea and Empress Orchid that Butcher says invoked her longing to return to China, where she had lived four years previously, in Taiwan and Shanghai.
"When the call came from College of Arts and Sciences Dean Roger Yu, I was mainly interested in employment at an American university in China, where I would have the opportunity to teach that to which I had devoted my adult life through study," Butcher says. "I also wanted to do research and writing. It was only after my arrival that I realized how fortuitous the job at NYIT-Nanjing was."
Butcher followed her instinct and now the New Jersey-New York native teaches courses to students fluent (or near fluent) in English at the Nanjing campus, chairs the English department, and directs the NYIT Center for Humanities and Culture at NUPT, where she oversees 16 student workers who set up for different events, advertise, and answer questions. NYIT's center is one of 12 American cultural centers in China originally funded by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
She became acutely aware of the importance of her vocation after attending a talk by Wendy Steiner, author of The Real Real Thing, at Nanjing University, the same place Pearl Buck taught. Subsequent email exchanges in December 2011 between the two women made Butcher realize that she wholeheartedly agrees with Steiner's assertions on interactivity through the Internet and mass media as "the central thrust of contemporary culture" and that institutes of technology are likely to "become increasingly central to cultural education in the future."
"I now understand that my NYIT-Nanjing position as associate professor of English and, as of October 2011, my appointment by President Edward Guiliano as director of the NYIT Center for Humanities and Culture, are cutting-edge opportunities for applying my cultural training in interdisciplinary English, folklore, history, and religion from UC-Berkeley and the University of Pennsylvania," Butcher says. "They also allow me to use my public programming experience as a New York State Council of the Arts folklorist, often in relation to technology."
In the fall 2012 semester, for example, Butcher is using NYIT Associate Professor Nicholas Bloom's text, Foundations of Inquiry, a compilation of articles written by scholars in a variety of academic disciplines on technological themes, in a course of the same name. Concurrently, engaging cultural events that demonstrate or refer to the significance of technology abound at the center.
"The highly successful NYIT-NUPT Student Film Festival and International Symposium in April 2012 and the recent receipt of a U.S. Department of State Federal Assistance Award for a short film competition on intellectual property rights attest to the success of one center program that clearly illustrates the relationship between technology and culture," Butcher says. "This success has been made possible through the leadership of Film Coordinator and Professor Kim Bigelow and his communication arts team of Professors Thomas Speirs, Geoffrey Bell, Ph.D., and Patrick Karle."
The film festival attracted speakers of international fame, such as Mike Figgis, director of Leaving Las Vegas (1995) starring Nicolas Cage.
She adds, "Ken Ellingwood, former foreign correspondent of the Los Angeles Times, recently gave a talk at our inaugural current events session and made the significant point that new media technology is changing conventional journalismif not causing its demise."
As the center's director, Butcher is charged with presenting a variety of American viewpoints to Chinese students, university staff and the public, and creating a space where intercultural communication occurs. She does so in collaboration with NUPT Associate Director Dean Fang Zongxiang. She says there are myriad ways that fall 2012 programs relate to technology, such as weekly activities of the American Culture Club led by Professors Annie Christain, Ph.D., and Marcia Kear; the NYIT-Nanjing Film Colloquium; and bi-weekly current events sessions held on campus.
In addition, Butcher is the author of The Chinese and Chinese American Ancestor Memorial Service in the Catholic Church, 635. A.D. to the Present. Her research and writing are focused on the history and traditions of the Chinese diaspora and other groups such as Pacific Islander Americans and Filipinos. When not engaged in her vocation of teaching and organizing events at the center, she enjoys chatting with family members and friends, jogging, and meditating.