Chia Ning’s early childhood experiences during China’s Cultural Revolution and her arrival in the U.S. with $50 and dream of a Ph.D. could not have foretold the history professor’s 25 years of dedicated service to Central students, Iowa’s cultural outreach, and global, liberal arts education.
As Chia Ning completed her first master’s degree at Illinois State University, she fell in love with the Midwest. So when she saw the open position at Central in East Asian history upon completion of her Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins in 1991, she knew she had to apply.
“Central was a different type of institution than what I had attended at major universities, so I wanted to experience the small liberal arts college.
“It was the first of many firsts for me. I was the first tenured faculty member from Asia who has been promoted to full professor. There had been no offering in Asian history previously, so I immediately felt responsible to make it strong, with high expectations for myself and others,” she recalls.
Beginning with her first semester on campus, Chia Ning has taught seven courses each year; courses in History of Modern China, History of Modern Japan, Early East Asian Civilization, Modern East Asian Civilization, East Asian Cultures, Chinese language on beginning and intermediate levels, and later Introduction to International Studies, seminars in Modern China and Japan in Comparison, Qing China and Tsarist Russia and an honor’s enrichment seminar, History and Identity: The Chinese and Japanese American Experience.
She is currently developing two courses focused on sustainability — Sustainability and International Studies and Sustainability in U.S.-China Relations — topics, she says, she’s deeply interested in.
“Ten years ago, I noticed sustainability rising in my field so I began to include a sustainability component in all of my courses. It’s very important with climate change. No single country can influence the changes. You have to be global. All students need this component,” she says.
Chia Ning also finds public service rewarding and views her volunteer experiences as another way to bring issues into the classroom.
“Larger society is very inviting to me. I wasn’t interested in involvement at first but gradually it helped me to feel less isolated and know more about general society. Communities are very enlightening,” she says.
And she has reciprocated by enlightening Iowans and others about East Asian immigration and cultural issues as a member of the Commission on the Status of Iowans of Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage, the State of Iowa Human Rights Board, The Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board and Commission on Continuing Legal Education. In 2008 her efforts were recognized by Gov. Chet Culver with the Governor’s Volunteer Award.
In service to her profession, Chia Ning is a frequent invited scholar, keynote speaker, and panelist, as well as a well-regarded scholar invited to review publications of others. Her own scholarship is frequently cited by others.
Service on campus committees has been another hallmark of her time at Central. “I was the first international faculty member to serve on the personnel committee for about a decade, some colleagues informed me,” she says. She has also served on committees in cultural affairs, study abroad, institutional review board and technology.
“I want to express my gratitude to the many good people who supported me during this quarter-century and believed in global education at Central. I couldn’t be happier, not just for me but for my Chinese heritage and for the hundreds of Central graduates who are making their way in the world.”