National Taiwan University
From Local to Global: NTU Collaborates with Minerva Schools
- Local issue oriented workshops with multicultural insight and mutual learning
- Numerous site-specific workshops and leverage the knowledge they had learned in class
Minerva Schools at KGI (Keck Graduate Institute), a university headquartered in San Francisco, California, is a respected university in the United States that differs radically from conventional universities. Unlike conventional institutions of higher learning where programs are centered on lectures and knowledge transmission, Minerva Schools’ guiding principle is to “nurture critical wisdom for the sake of the world,” and it focuses on cultivating the students’ ability to think critically, work collaboratively, communicate effectively, and be creative and innovative. At Minerva, there is no campus infrastructure or set classrooms, and students learn digitally via an online platform and live in residential communities to be integrated with the local city. Throughout the four-year program, students are offered the opportunity to live in seven cities around the world in which they are constantly stimulated and challenged to grow. This global experience allows Minerva students to not only acquire fundamental life skills by living in the community but also access a wide range of experiential programs that extend their learning into the urban context.
NTU began its collaboration with Minerva since 2018, and Taipei became officially listed as the seventh global residential location the following year. After Minerva students complete their semesters in San Francisco, Seoul, Hyderabad, Berlin, Buenos Aires, and London, Taipei is the last stop of their academic journey. This year, the first batch of Minerva students will be graduating after completing their semester in Taipei.
Multicultural Insight and Mutual Learning
To expose students to the rich cultural diversity of Taiwan as well as nurture the students’ intellects across multiple disciplines, NTU’s Office of International Affairs recruited professors and experts from different fields to host workshops focusing on local challenges and cultures. The goal of this program is to encourage students to meaningfully engage with and contribute to the local community. The program includes the following courses: “Tastes of Taiwan” (Lecturer: Prof. Chau-Ti Ting, Department of Life Science), “Cycling City” (Lecturer: Prof. Shuwei Huang, D-School), “Taiwanese Tea – From Land to Cup” (Lecturers: Prof. Sheng-Lin Chang, Graduate Institute of Building and Planning; Prof. Po-Yi Hung, Department of Geography; Prof. Shu-Yen Lin, Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture; Joann Chu, Industry Advisor), “Modern Urbanscape and East Asian Culture” (Lecturer: Prof. Tsung-Yi Huang, Department of Geography), “Non-Profit Management” (Lecturer: Prof. Helen K. Liu, Department of Political Science), “Performing Arts in the Digital Era” (Lecturer: Prof. Szu-Wei Chen, Graduate Institute of Musicology), “D-School Project Supporting Program” (Lecturer: D-School), “Edible Care and Place-Making” (Lecturers: Prof. Shu-Mei Huang, Graduate Institute of Building and Planning; Prof. Yi-Yi Chen, Department of Social Work), and “SDGs International Study Group” (Lecturer: Center for Teaching and Learning Development). These structured co-curricular courses not merely delved deeply into specific topics and issues but also offered team-based activities and work sessions that allowed students to learn from each other and incorporate the acquired concepts and materials in real-life scenarios. Seventy NTU students were selected out of 180 applicants to participate in these courses, and a total of 150 NTU and Minerva students learned together in this program.
The workshops exposed students to a wide array of learning methods, and thanks to the dedicated efforts of the professors, the students from both institutions were able to visit areas and communities that had been less accessible. For example, in the course “Edible Care and Place-Making,” students visited the Toad Mountain Community near NTU to learn how to cook local cuisine and gain insights into the development and history of the community. For “Taiwanese Tea – From Land to Cup,” students visited Pinglin, a place famed for producing tea, to get a sense of the past and future outlook of the tea industry in Taiwan. Students also cooked tangyuan, or sweet glutinous rice balls, at the Kitchen of Science in National Taiwan Science Education Center to understand the concept of seasonality in Chinse cuisine, the importance of rice in Chinese culture, and the process of fermentation. For “Modern Urbanscape and East Asian Culture,” Prof. Huang led students to Wanhua District to highlight the importance of urban development and discuss issues concerning homelessness. Students also had the chance to visit local temples and immerse themselves in Taiwan’s religious culture. During the sessions of “SDGs International Study Group,” students were given complete freedom to select any topic of discussion and reading materials related to the United Nation’s sustainable development goals (SDGs). Through discussion and debate with their peers, students were trained to identify the key problems and come up with possible solutions.
Throughout the three-month program, students from both sides had the privilege to participate in numerous site-specific workshops and leverage the knowledge they had learned in class. Besides, this experiential program fostered constructive dialogues and encouraged students to view things from different perspectives. In this process of cultural immersion and mutual learning, students not only acquired a deeper understanding of Taiwan but also gained a multicultural insight into local and global issues.