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Chinese students learn spirit of entrepreneurship at ASU

Chinese students learn innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit at ASU.
July 27, 2017

New program with Sichuan University teaches practical business advice, US culture

Twenty young Chinese people enthusiastically raised their hands when the teacher asked if they used the social app WeChat.

Too bad, he told them.

“The people in America that you’re going to want as resources — networkers, investors — are going to use email,” said Bob Schoenfeld, executive liaison for international student services at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

“Email is the primary form of communication, and the way you use it is incredibly important.”

Email etiquette was just one part of American business culture that the young people, all students at Sichuan University, were learning during an intensive two-week program on entrepreneurship at ASU’s Tempe campus. They were in the first cohort of “Global Innovators,” sponsored by the W. P. Carey School of Business in partnership with the Entrepreneurship + Innovation unit of Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU.

Bob Schoenfeld, executive liaison for international student services at the W. P. Carey School of Business, teaches English and American business culture. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

ASU has had a partnership for several years with Sichuan University, which recently received funding from the central government in China to build a program in entrepreneurship and innovation, according to Angela Zhou, senior project manager at ASU. The program funded most of the 20 students who are at ASU this month.

“Systemically, entrepreneurship has not been approached in China the way we do here today,” she said.

The Chinese are known as a manufacturing powerhouse, “but they want to innovate and have their own ideas,” Zhao said.

Shan He (pictured at the top of this story), an English language and literature major at Sichuan University, wanted to take the course to learn more about the practice of entrepreneurship.

“Chinese people think, ‘I have an idea and I’ll start this business,’ but without a specific methodology, they can fail really fast even if the idea is great,” said He, who worked at an English-lesson startup for two years.

“I know Americans have done this for a longer time and have already built a culture of doing this. I would like to do consulting to promote this culture and creativity in China to help startups,” she said.

Renguang Liu is a mechanical engineering major at Sichuan University.

“I’m interested in how to make technology help people to live a better life, and I don’t think my classmates or my teachers in China think about those things,” he said. “So I wanted a new environment to make some creative ideas.”

The students come from a variety of majors, including engineering, business and dentistry. They’ll have follow-up sessions online, and in the fall, Schoenfeld and ASU lecturer Rhett Trujillo will travel to Sichuan University for the group’s final presentations. Trujillo designed the entrepreneurship content in the program, which could possibly expand to other universities in other countries.

“Global Innovators” includes lessons on entrepreneurship, such as how to take an idea from concept to reality, as well as classes on business English and American culture.

Shuwen Xiao, a nursing major at Sichuan University, attends a class in the new "Global Innovators" program for aspiring entrepreneurs. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

The cultural awareness covered the “whys,” said Schoenfeld, who designed that content.

“There’s a reason why we do what we do,” he said. “It’s not good or bad or better or worse, it’s just different.”

One example is the American value of punctuality.

“In America and Western Europe, there are deadlines. Time is money,” he said. “Eastern cultures believe time is abundant and should be enjoyed. Therefore deadlines are more like guidelines.”

He also covers concepts like individualism vs. collectivism and the expectations of teamwork.

“How do you give feedback?” said Schoenfeld, who lived in Japan for several years. “When I gave feedback in Japan, I was considered incredibly rude and aggressive. It took a year for anyone to tell me, ‘You’re burning bridges by being so direct.’ ”

Schoenfeld said the plan is to have a much larger group of Sichuan students attend a monthlong session at ASU next spring.

“We want to give students options for working in groups for those who don’t have an idea and who come here to be taught how to create an idea. And some want to work independently,” he said.

Experiencing American culture is an important part of the visit. The students went to a Diamondbacks baseball game and visited Sedona.

As a student in China, He said she had misconceptions about entrepreneurship.

“I always thought of it as someone having an idea to make money. But now we understand that entrepreneurship is a spirit and a culture and it’s not just about making money, it’s about how to make the world better,” she said.

“You see a problem and you want to solve it. That changed me.”

Top photo: Shan He, an English language and literature major at Sichuan University, talks with a classmate in the "Global Innovators" program at ASU's Tempe campus. The students were in a lesson on email etiquette. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4503

 
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ASU psychology professor sheds light on rockers’ twin suicides

July 27, 2017

Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell’s body was discovered by a bodyguard in a posh Detroit hotel room following a May 17 concert. 

Last week, 41-year-old Linkin Park lead singer Chester Bennington was found by his maid in his Southern California estate on what would have been Cornell’s 53rd birthday.

Both were rock icons to millennials.

Both were friends.

And both men committed suicide.

As the accolades, remembrances and condolences continue to pour in for these two rock veterans, fans, music critics and members of the public are all left asking the same question: Why would two men who had fame, wealth, caring wives and young children end their lives so suddenly?

“It can be lonely at the top,” said Suniya Luthar, a Foundation Professor of psychology at Arizona State University and a professor emerita at Columbia University’s Teachers College.

“When you’re at a high level in celebrity status, there is a unique set of stressors. It can be hard. It can be lonely.”

Woman smiling
Suniya Luthar

Luthar’s research involves vulnerability and resilience among various populations including youth in poverty, children in families affected by mental illness, and teens in upper-middle-class and affluent families.

This past year her groundbreaking research paper, “Adolescents from upper-middle-class communities: Substance misuse and addiction across early childhood,” examined two groups of affluent teens in the northeast U.S. as part of the New England Study of Suburban Youth. It received praise from her peers as well as national attention. Her research findings on depression and anxiety among kids in high-achieving schools has also received extensive media attention over the years, including in an in-depth feature in The Atlantic on cluster suicides in Silicon Valley.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, suicides in 2016 surged to their highest levels in almost 30 years, with increases in every age group except older adults. However, the rise was substantial for middle-age men like Cornell and Bennington, jumping 43 percent from males ages 45 to 64 since 1986.

Experts do not know what is driving the increase, but they point to social and economic factors such as mental illness, mood disorders, disappointed expectations, personal finances, unemployment and a lack of health systems to screen for suicidal thinking.

ASU Now engaged Luthar on the complex topic of suicide to gain better insight.

Question: Celebrity suicides always seem to take people by surprise given that most of them have fame and wealth and are adored by millions. In other words, they seem to have it all on the surface. What’s going on underneath the surface that we don’t see?

Answer: A couple of things. One: it can be lonely at the top — studies have shown that people of high status are most likely to feel friendless. Why? Because they have the resources to buy goods and services for everything.  

Most of us know that someone is a true friend because they come to us when we’re in a time of need. But wealthy people can basically purchase everything from health care to psychotherapy to … you name it. So paradoxically, they don’t get to see the overtures of simple kindness and help that are “proof” of someone’s genuine friendship. 

Plus, there is always a nagging concern that people are around them because of their status, fame and money, not because of true caring for them as human beings. Bottom line — when you’re at a high level in celebrity status, there is a unique set of stressors. It can be hard. It can be lonely.

Q: In the case of Cornell and Bennington, both had a history of drug and alcohol abuse early in life; Bennington also disclosed he was sexually abused for a period of five years and was bullied in school. Is there a connection between substance abuse, sexual abuse, bullying and suicide?

A: There’s no question that they are interconnected. There is more and more research showing that very traumatic, early adverse experiences do affect the architecture of the brain. When kids have severe traumatic experiences repeatedly, over a period of time, they are vulnerable to a host of adjustment difficulties including anxiety, panic, depression, PTSD, substance abuse or all of the above. People who experience sexual abuse in particular are very vulnerable to developing problems of addiction and substance abuse.

The findings on child abuse are unequivocal. I can tell you any child who has experienced chronic, severe abuse — physical, emotional or sexual — is going to experience some level of adjustment difficulties. You do not find children who go through that kind of abuse and come out “resilient,” smelling like a rose. Prolonged abuse is just too destructive. It’s just too pernicious.

Q: Both men had supportive wives and small children. Some might find it surprising that isn’t enough of a deterrent for them to stop their final actions.

A: Again, so much depends on the degree and chronicity of the early trauma. If it was severe enough and prolonged enough, essentially the damage that is done can be pretty profound. Think of it as a person who is not necessarily broken, if you will, but is certainly cracked or fragile. And these cracks never completely heal, so what happens is in times of stress they have this underlying vulnerability which can push them over the edge. Everybody has ups and downs, but when people with high underlying vulnerability experience fresh traumas, support from family and friends may not be enough to ward off the intensity of their anguish.

Also, sometimes even family and friends can be somewhat swayed by exterior presentations. In the case of these two gentlemen, for example, they were able to perform at very high levels. Most people may have seen them as successful, strong and confident, and sometimes it’s hard to look past that front and say, “Well, maybe there is a great degree of vulnerability behind that.” The front is so convincing and so compelling that it’s hard to conceive of the possibility that the person is breaking inside.

Q: There seems to be an element of impulsivity when it comes to suicide. Is that usually the case?

A: You might see it as impulsivity, but it could also be thought of as the straw that broke the camel’s back. I refer back to what I said earlier about a crack in the person. If it is true that these two gentlemen suffered serious adversity in their childhood, it’s important to remember, again, that there’s always a cost to prolonged abuse — an underlying vulnerability. When chronically vulnerable people experience fresh traumas or setbacks, this could be what tips them over the edge.  

Q: Why is it we as a society find it so hard to have empathy for the rich and famous who commit suicide? For example, one of these men who took his own life was called cowardly by another famous musician.

A: I’ve written about this before, that there are stereotypes about the rich that are as extreme and negative as those about the poor. People speak of the poor as lazy, indolent, shiftless and irresponsible, and they also speak about the rich as spoiled, entitled, self-involved and they get what they deserve. Both sets of stereotypes are just unhelpful and unkind.

Regarding judgments of suicide as cowardly, I have a similar reaction. Nobody knows what’s going on in another person’s skin, so for anyone from the outside to say what they did was cowardly is wrong. Who knows what’s going on in their heads, hearts and minds and souls, and what they’ve had to live with for decades? How can anyone judge their level of courage or cowardice, without knowing what they have lived through?

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-5176