Mary Gallagher, Associate Professor in Political Science, joins a distinguished list of colleagues who have been awarded the LSA Excellence in Education Award. The award is given annually to recognize special efforts by faculty in the areas of classroom teaching, curricular innovation, and the supervision of student research.
Professor Gallagher teaches Political Science 339: China's Evolution Under Communism. Approximately 120 students take this popular class each semester. The course provides a comprehensive introduction to Chinese history and politics. The 90 minute classroom sessions are a mixture of lecture and media, with an emphasis on the use of primary sources for reading, along with a variety of visual aids and documentaries which, combined, create a colorful and substantive panorama of Chinese society. Gallagher recommends China Beat and China Digital Times for those who wish to explore contemporary Chinese issues.
"Students need to see what China looks like, and how dramatically different it is today compared to a quarter of a century ago. Back then, we rarely saw personal cars; today the big cities are all congested with traffic," according to Gallagher, who has lived in China and travels there frequently.
Students generally feel that the course provides a balanced and insightful overview of a country that has been a sleeping giant in recent US history. Chinese students say that they learn things in this course that they weren't taught in Chinese schools. Since it is an undergraduate course, Gallagher is sensitive in her presentation of information that might be difficult or controversial.
When talking about China, it is clear that Gallagher loves her subject and wants others to share her knowledge.
"Teaching Chinese politics at an American university is a great opportunity and privelege," she says. "Our knowledge of China is not sufficient given the importance of US-China relations and China's growing impact on the US economy. China's political history and its contemporary challenges are intrinsically fascinating, which puts me at an advantage. It is hard to make China boring."
Professor Gallagher received her Ph.D. in Political Science from Princeton University, and is an active speaker and writer on developing and transitional states, Chinese politics, law and social change, and labor relations and politics in China. She is currently finishing a book about the legal mobilization of Chinese workers.
Click here for her bio, a list of publications, and additional information.