Asian Studies Fellows

Michelle Marshman

Asian Studies Fellow Interview: Michelle Marshman (2019-20)

Dr. Michelle Marshman is a tenured faculty member in the Social Science Division at Green River College in Auburn, WA.  She has been teaching world and women’s history survey courses since 1997.

Michelle successfully applied for a 2019-20 Asian Studies Course Development Grant to revise HS 231 Modern Asia, which was subsequently taught in Fall 2021. The course has significantly enhanced Green River’s Asian Studies Concentration, which was launched in 2019.

Please tell us a little about your revised course, Modern Asia.

Modern Asia hadn’t been taught for many years. Thanks to the UW Asian Studies Course Development Grant, I was able to redesign it from the ground up. The course is a 200-level survey of Modern Asia, and I expanded the geographic boundaries to include not only Japan, China and Korea but to a broader survey that includes Central, South and Southeast Asia. Of course, it’s impossible to thoroughly study the modern history of each Asian country, so the class approach is thematic, focusing on big ideas, broad themes, and significant events.

I also created cultural “hooks” to inspire students to further studies down the road.  So, for example, we used Zhang Yimou’s film To Live as a prism through which to study the first half of 20th century China.  We also watched Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives and Jang Hoon’s A Taxi Driver to draw out cultural traditions and contemporary politics of Thailand and South Korea respectively.

What difference has your Course Development Grant made to the development and implementation of your course?

Developing a new course takes considerable time and research. Thanks to the grant, I was able to design and build the class over Summer 2020, rather than teach.  Also, in all honestly, knowing the UW supported the course development added a level of conscientiousness and integrity to the work I put into the class. I believe that translated to a deeper qualitative experience for Green River students.

What did you students think of the revised course?

The course has been an absolute delight to teach. The nature of the class, a more specialized 200-level history class, means students self-select, so I had the pleasure of really smart, engaged students.  They performed well with narrative history, but they really excelled with the cultural history assignments, from exploring women’s beauty standards in the 1920s Shiseido advertising campaigns to an introduction to K-Pop (although I’m not sure who was really teaching whom!).

Another success has been the numerous messages from Asian American students for whom this class has been deeply meaningful.  I get the sense that this class has been a refreshing drink of intellectual water for them in an academic transfer curriculum that may only superficially touch on the Asian American experience.

How will your course broadly enhance East Asia and Global Studies curriculum at your college?

Modern Asia is the only history course we have focused specifically on Asia, so it’s a real boon to offer this class annually. In 2019, my colleague who teaches Japanese language here at Green River started an Asian Studies Concentration to better support student interest in Asian studies, and I’m pleased this class is a part of that Concentration.

Why is it important for students at your college to have opportunities to develop competencies in East Asia Studies, Global Learning, and other forms of international exchange?

To borrow from a book title, the future is Asian.  As someone who teaches macro history in the world civilization survey series, I can see the general pattern of the 19th century as European, the 20th as American, and the 21st century as Asian.  So, in addition to learning for the sake of learning, it’s in our own best interest as Americans, especially as West-Coasters, to learn about the history, culture, values, and business practices of Asia.  Practically speaking, our students will need at least a modicum of cultural fluency in Asian Studies, whether they are heading into fields of information technology, farming, aerospace or retail sales.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experience as an Asian Studies Fellow?

I do want to highlight two more important aspects of collaborating with the UW East Asia Center, Center for Global Studies and other programs in the Jackson School of International Studies.  First, the Community College Master Teacher Institute (CCMTI) for college faculty has been immensely helpful in deepening my own understanding of international studies, from climate change to immigration to populism.  For example, in Summer 2020, the CCMTI had two experts sharing perspectives on Hong Kong and Taiwan.  I drew from both presentations as I developed curriculum and assignments for these subjects.  So thank you for that opportunity.

Second, I am now working with four students to help strengthen their transfer applications to the UW as they hope to study at the Jackson School.  Working on creating pathways for Green River students to study at the UW’s Jackson School has been tremendously rewarding.

Interview conducted December 2020.

Green River College Student Profiles

A number of Michelle’s students at Green River College also shared their experiences of Modern Asia with the East Asia Center. Check out their stories at the following links: