Lu Jingjie, Ginling College

Strengthening the Voices of Young Women

Lu Jingjie’s appreciation for women’s colleges began on her first day as an undergraduate at Ginling College in Nanjing, China. “I saw a group of Ginling seniors descending the staircase after class,” she recalled. “How they were beaming with confidence and elegance dazzled me!” Over the course of the years she has spent at Ginling, first as a student and since 2004 as a faculty member in the Department of English, she realized the young women’s self-confidence came from the quality of the education they received at Ginling. “Women’s colleges like Ginling foster intellectual and physical independence in their students.”

The atmosphere in the classroom and throughout the Ginling campus sets the tone. “Women’s voices are heard and respected,” Dr. Lu said. “Their thoughts and opinions are valued and encouraged. The courses, forums, and activities offered on gender studies help to clear away preconceptions and stereotypes about women, and students thus feel more liberated to pursue their individual dreams in various fields. The faculty and alumnae are role models for students to follow, to catch up with, and eventually to surpass.”

As a 2017-2018 United Board Fellow, Dr. Lu found a similar environment at Women’s Christian College (WCC) in Chennai, India, where she enjoyed a two-month placement at the end of 2017. Both Ginling and WCC, she found, “are women’s colleges proud of their long histories. Both were founded by overseas Christian missionaries in 1915 and have made great contributions in educating women and promoting gender equality since then. Both emphasize the importance of whole person education and aim to nurture their students not only in pursuing academic achievements but also in developing integrity, persistence, and social responsibility.”

Dr. Lu exchanges ideas with WCC faculty members.

At WCC, Dr. Lu was impressed with the college-wide assemblies and departmental lectures that introduce students to new ideas and role models, from realms as varied as health, human rights, local cultural heritage, cybersecurity, and the performing arts. For example, one guest speaker conducted a poetry appreciation and writing class addressing themes of war, violence and peacebuilding. The students were given a voice – and they responded. Dr. Lu said, “I listened to the poems students composed within 30 minutes in class, and I was amazed by their concerns and sensitivity to world politics, their unique ways of interpretation and definition of war, violence, democracy and peace.”

Dr. Lu, in her role as Ginling’s coordinator of international affairs, is already making plans to deepen the relationship between Ginling and WCC. “I am planning to first start a collaboration between the English departments, which may take the form of joint research projects – like my current study of contemporary Indian women’s writings in English – or online mini-lectures on Chinese and Indian cultures and languages, or participation in symposiums and workshops. I also hope there will be student exchange programs in the future.” Through these activities and others, the educators at Ginling College and Women’s Christian College can work together to help the young women on their campuses broaden their horizons and “think outside the textbook and the classroom.”