When Joseph Weber first planned a brief summer course for undergraduates at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, he and the organizers expected a couple dozen to enroll. He wound up with 44 students, including one auditor.
“The Chinese are eager to learn business and economic journalism,” said Weber, an associate professor at the College of Journalism and Mass Communications. “They know that the specialized skills in the area can lead to well-paying jobs. Savvy students at University of Nebraska–Lincoln know the same thing.”
At the request of the economic journalism department at SUFE, Weber devised and taught an intense eight-day program in business and economic journalism from July 20 to July 28. The class met each night for an hour and a half, including on a Saturday night.
Not a single student missed a session, Weber said. And most attended an additional voluntary gathering one afternoon at Bloomberg News’ Shanghai bureau, where they toured the newsroom and heard presentations about the craft by several practicing journalists.
“The students were remarkably dedicated and hardworking,” Weber said. “I asked them to read considerable amounts of material each day, in English, on economics and on financial journalism. We started each class with a quiz on the materials, which most students aced, often scoring better than 100 percent because of extra-credit questions.”
Most students also aced two take-home exams, one of which focused on economics and one on business, he said. They did well, too, on an in-class writing task in which they wrote a news story about a Chinese company’s quarterly earnings.
Weber tailored parts of the course to China. He discussed such leading businesspeople, for instance, as Jack Ma, who founded the Alibaba Group, one of the world’s leading e-commerce companies, and Zhou Qunfei, an entrepreneur who founded Lens Technology. Zhou at times has been described as the richest woman in the country.
SUFE, which this year marks its 100th anniversary, is the oldest finance-oriented university in China. Its dozen schools include the School of Humanities, which houses the Department of Economic Journalism, a unit established in 2000. The department offers programs leading to bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
Weber, who taught for a semester in the Global Business Journalism program at Tsinghua University in Beijing in 2011, based his curriculum at SUFE on the offerings in a financial communications course he teaches at University of Nebraska–Lincoln. That financial communications course, an eight-week, asynchronous online session, is a joint effort between University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications and the College of Business.
Just as at University of Nebraska–Lincoln, the SUFE curriculum drew a mix of students. These included journalism majors along with others majoring in finance, management, economics and human resources. At University of Nebraska–Lincoln, the financial communications course appeals, too, to a broad range of students, including those studying journalism and
public relations as well as those pursuing graduate degrees in business and accounting.
Dr. Lin Hui, assistant dean and head of the Department of Economic Journalism at SUFE, invited Weber at the suggestion of Dr. Bryan Ming Wang, an assistant professor of public relations at CoJMC. Wang did his undergraduate work at Shanghai International Studies University.
Officials at SUFE, including Dr. Chen Zhong, dean of the School of Humanities, and officials at University of Nebraska–Lincoln will explore further areas in which the universities may collaborate.
Dr. Maria Marron, CoJMC’s dean, welcomes opportunities for college faculty to teach, conduct research and serve international constituents.
“We need international engagement in this era of globalization,” she said. “I am delighted that Professor Weber had this wonderful opportunity to teach at SUFE, an opportunity that not only increased Chinese students’ knowledge of financial journalism but also enhanced Prof. Weber’s familiarity with Chinese business and culture.”
Marron added: "Prof. Weber had developed good relationships with Bloomberg, having worked for BusinessWeek before Bloomberg acquired it, and his work helped gain access to the Shanghai bureau for his Chinese students.”
For several years, officials of Bloomberg News have worked closely with Weber and CoJMC and the news service has taken on students as interns. Founding editor Matt Winkler presented sessions at the college in February 2017 on media in the age of Twitter and on the development of the global news organization.
Weber looks toward more efforts between University of Nebraska–Lincoln and SUFE. “There are great possibilities for us to work together in ways that help our students, as well as those at SUFE, and offer our faculties chances to share experiences,” he said. “Teaching in Shanghai was a joy and an adventure. Collaborating further would be, as well.”