By Peggy McInerny, Director of Communications
UCLA International Institute, May 20, 2020 — Upon completion of a master’s degree in library and information sciences at UCLA in 2018, Jeannie Chen joined the UCLA Global Classroom Program in China as a teaching aide in sociology and history. The program offers college-credit courses taught in English by UCLA instructors to high school students in China, helping them prepare to attend university in the United States.
“Thanks to the recommendation of Professor Min Zhou, director of the UCLA Asia Pacific Center and one of my key mentors during graduate studies,” says Chen, “I pursued this unique instructional opportunity at Jinling High School (金陵中学) in Nanjing.
“Nanjing was the place where my mother grew up as a young girl,” she recounts. “I returned there to reconnect with my roots as an American-born Chinese and to cultivate alternative perspectives on teaching and learning.”
Chen planned to teach in Nanjing throughout the 2019–2020 academic year, but was unable to return to China in late January after spending her winter break in Southern California. Travel restrictions and stay at home orders associated with the novel coronavirus pandemic did not, however, interrupt her work.
“My colleagues and I at UCLA Global Classroom have been working very hard to provide online instruction to our Chinese students this spring 2020 semester, with support from the leaders of the UCLA International Institute,” she recounts.
The best news? Their hard work has contributed to their students’ success. “It was highly rewarding to learn that our seniors have all been admitted to top universities in the U.S.,” shares Chen, “including many who received admission letters from UCLA!”
Monitoring news of the pandemic in both China and the U.S., Chen became aware of the dire shortage of protective face masks for essential staff on university campuses in the U.S. She and her mother Justine Su, professor of education at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), soon devised a plan.
“We decided to use our own funds and, with the generous support of our friend Chao Liu — a former CSUN Chinese student who later became a family friend — were able to purchase 2,000 protective face masks from a medical supply company in Qingdao, China,” said Chen, “and arrange for them to be sent here via DHL in April.”
Masks from the gift of Jeannie Chen and Justine Su. (Photo courtesy of Asia Pacific Center.)
The two women subsequently gave half of the masks to UCLA (500 masks went to the UCLA International Institute and 500, to UCLA Library), and another 1,000 to CSU Northridge. “As a graduate of both these institutions, I hope that these face masks will help essential staff at UCLA and CSUN reduce risks and work safely as they continue to provide excellent services and strong support to our faculty and students, which include many international scholars and students from different parts of the world,” concludes Chen.
“I am deeply touched by this generous gift on the part of Jeannie Chen and her mother, Professor Justine Su,” says Min Zhou, director of the Asia Pacific Center, who took delivery of the masks on behalf of the International Institute. “The UCLA community truly reaches across the world; we are lucky to have such warm-hearted graduates and friends during this global health crisis.”
Shanghai high school students also organize gift of facial masks
Students at another Chinese high school that participates in the UCLA Global Classroom program – Soong Ching Ling School (SCLS) in Shanghai — also organized a major gift of face masks to UCLA Health in early March 2020.
Learning about Covid-19 infections in California and the shortage of personal protective equipment in the U.S., SCLS students shared their idea for a gift with UCLA Global Classroom administrators, who ascertained the best destination for such a gift was the UCLA Health donation center in Van Nuys, CA.
The students put in considerable work, effort and funds to implement their idea. First, they conducted research on the quality of face masks available in China and found a supplier whose product had FDA approval. Next, they worked with their parents to mobilize the contacts needed to place an order for 5,000 masks. Finally, to expedite the process, they shipped their gift via DHL and FedEx in multiple packages, filling out all the requisite paperwork and personally delivering the packages to the courier companies' offices in Shanghai.
From left: students from Soong Ching Ling School with DHL packages; FedEx packages ready for mailing.
(Photos courtesy of UCLA Global Classroom.)
“We are deeply grateful to the SCLS students and their parents for their great efforts and generous gift,” said Justin Zackey (UCLA Ph.D., geography 2005), executive director of UCLA Global Classroom.
The UCLA International Institute thanks Jeannie Chen and the students of Soong Ching Long School, together with their families, for their touching generosity to UCLA during the global pandemic.