Dr. Sau Hou Chang
School of Education faculty and staff at Central University of South Bihar
Photo with doctoral students at School of Education at Central University of South Bihar
Dr. Sau Hou Chang Brings Innovative Perspective to Global Educational Opportunities Through the Fulbright Specialist Program
A lifelong learner and dedicated to education, Sau Hou Chang, Ph.D. and professor of education and faculty coordinator for diversity and inclusion, recently returned from a trip to India as part of the prestigious Fulbright Specialist Program (FSP).
The FSP, part of the larger Fulbright Program, was established in 2001 by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Specialists across a wide range of professional and academic disciplines are competitively selected to join the FSP roster. Specialists, like Chang, are then matched with host institutions to foster a knowledge and cultural exchange over a two to six week period.
Born in Macau, China, Chang was always interested in education and global perspectives on education, psychology and philosophy. She received her B.A. in teaching English as a foreign language from the National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei, Taiwan. She then studied abroad to receive her master’s in education with a major in counseling in education from the University of Newcastle in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England. She continued to broaden her experiences by getting her Ph.D. in philosophy with a major in educational psychology from Texas A&M University-Commerce in Commerce, Texas. Her insights and research into educational systems around the world have established Chang as a premier professional in the field.
“The one thing that I have learned being in all these different places is that each culture is unique and different,” said Chang. “I try to keep an open mind and really try to understand why someone does something a certain way. It is a reminder that the way you might be doing something is not the only way it can be done. I think sometimes people may misunderstand something out of ignorance but with communicating and educating, you can gain an understanding and appreciation for the differences you may experience.”
Welcome to India
Chang was matched to the Central University of South Bihar (CUSB) in Gaya, India to work on an assessment project. CUSB is a relatively new university that opened in 2009 as one of 54 such universities established by the federal government of India. Chang was hosted by the CUSB school of education and was given a guest house to stay on campus.
“I had lots of interactions and discussions with almost all units in the university,” said Chang. “All the staff were just very curious about how things are done in the United States and how they can learn from our experience in assessments and evaluations. They were very interested in learning how they could improve their processes. For instance, CUSB puts a lot of emphasis on testing – it makes up the majority of the grade. This differs from our experiences in the U.S. where we have class assignments, presentations, and projects that relate back to a real life application. They were really interested in how to use these other assessment tools (besides just tests) to develop grading systems. Part of the FSB exchange like this is sharing what is going on in other parts of the world and opening up their minds to new possibilities.”
Chang also noted that the CUSB students were very curious and eager to learn about U.S. universities and culture because many were interested in applying to study in the U.S. She had an office on campus and many students would stop by and ask for advice, especially since she was a former international student.
“This was a great experience for me because I learned just as much from them as they did from me,” said Chang. “It was a very intense, diversity experience for me and I learned so much about the culture of India. I ate my meals every day in the dining room at the guest house and started to learn Hindi from the chef, so I would know what I was eating. Towards the end of my time there, I was able to order my food in Hindi and speak a little of the language. The chef and the staff were so surprised and this was a wonderful way to interact with them.”
Appreciating the Culture of the Region
Another benefit of the FSP is the ability to be immersed in the culture of the State of Bihar. Chang was able to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya, located approximately an hour from CUSB. This is the complex where Buddha gained enlightenment. She was fortunate enough to be invited to attend a ceremony where rituals were performed to help release the souls of the deceased for reincarnation at Vishnupad Temple in Gaya. In addition, Chang also visited another UNESCO site, this time the Nalanda University Ruins in Magadha. The ruins belong to the world’s first residential university, dating back to the fifth century B.C.E.
The people, the culture and the food all had a major impact on Chang but there was one Indian delicacy that stood out as her favorite.
“The Indian yogurt was so good,” said Chang. “This is not like what we buy here at the grocery store. They make their own yogurt with fresh cow’s milk and they make their own starter cultures. It’s called ‘dahi’ or curd and it gives the yogurt a more sour taste, but it is very fresh. One of my Indian colleague’s wife is going to give me her starter culture so I can start making my own. I am excited about that!”
Chang plans to remain in contact with the faculty and staff at CUSB and potentially work on a future research collaboration.
Vishnupad Temple front gate.
Vishnupad Temple where families were holding rituals for the deceased.
Mahabodhi Temple where Buddha got the enlightenment.