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Water Policy Across China's Loess Plateau - Oakland Campus: Program Information

This guide is created to help Dr. Cook and Asian Studies Center's summer undergraduate research program on water resource management in China.

Program Overview


The Asian Studies Center proposes a new collaborative program in social science research on the impact of economic growth on desertification and water resource management practices in rural, northwestern China.  Student/faculty teams will be comprised of American and Chinese researchers who will focus on the following question: How has the massive economic development mandated by the central government’s ambitious “Opening and Reform of Northwest China” (Xibei dakaifa) program affected desertification and water resource management in rural, northwest China?  This inquiry-based program contains an educational component designed to mentor young researchers through the complete process of designing a research agenda, performing primary research in the social sciences in both urban areas and rural Chinese villages, and developing collaborative research and writing skills.  It builds upon the findings and methods of a highly successful previous Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program conducted in China from 2002 to 2010.

Important Dates

June 12: Program starts at Pitt
June 21: Arrive in Beijing
June 22: Arrive in Xi’an
July 11: Students depart from China
July 22: Program ends

Visit the program website for complete information.

Program Schedule

Program Schedule

The program will take place at the University of Pittsburgh, Northwest University (Xi’an), and in rural villages in Shaanxi and Shanxi provinces, China (see map).

  • Phase One will consist of recruitment and selection.  Beginning in November, the national recruitment efforts for program participants will be initiated. The deadline for application will be set for February 15.  All applications will be screened by at least two mentors, and 30 selected finalists will undergo telephone interviews.  Selection of the final 15 scholars will be completed by April 9. The goal of the selection process will be to pair participants who have particular technical skills with those who have an interest in China and/or competence in Mandarin. Selected scholars will be required to review previous secondary literature and a list of “topics for contemplation” before arrival in Pittsburgh.
  • Phase Two will be an intensive pre-departure program conducted on the PITT campus (6/12-6/19).  Program mentors and other invited experts will conduct pointed, in-depth sessions on regional geography, environmental history, economic development, societal change, etc.  An “Ethics in Science” program will also be included.
  • Phase Three will involve an intensive four-week research experience in China divided between Xi’an and rural villages in Shanxi province.  After flying to Xi’an, Shaanxi province, participants will be prepared to undertake regional research on the campus of Northwestern Universities. These local partners will be responsible for providing housing, transportation, and logistical support for local research.  Students will work with their Chinese counterparts to craft a joint research agenda.  Afterwards, students will spend two weeks in local villages along the Yellow River corridor between the two provinces (see map).  Depending on the group to which the student is assigned, research activities will include surveys, interviews (villagers, government officials, factory managers), archival research, statistical data gathering, visits to local businesses and factories, water sampling, etc.
  • Phase Four will take place at PITT over the last 10 days of this program (7/11-7/22), where participants will write up their findings.  Participants will initially engage in data crunching and the outlining of the research paper.  They will then co-write with their mentors a final 30-page draft.  They will also be trained on how to develop a PowerPoint presentation of their research materials for professional venues and will present their findings to the group.

After phase four, PITT will maintain contact with participating members for a period of five years in order to build a collegial cadre of “China/Environmental Hands” and to ascertain the impact that this experience made upon their long-run academic plans.