Flagshippers Getting Ready to Ship Out

Front (L-R): Mack lorden, Tina Li, Mac carr; back (L-R): Nick Pochedly, Joel Poncz, Briun Greene

Front (left to right): Mack Lorden, Tina Li, Mac Carr; back (left to right): Nick Pochedly, Joel Poncz, Briun Greene

In 1997, before “succeeding in the global marketplace” became buzzwords, Ohio State’s fledgling Advanced Chinese Language and Culture (Flagship) Graduate Program began preparing students to do exactly that. Still the only program of its kind in the country, the rigorous two-year immersion in Chinese language and culture—at Ohio State and in China—gives American students the tools to successfully work in China and with the Chinese in an academic discipline or career area.

Galal Walker, professor of Chinese and program director, is always on the lookout for scholarship assistance to make this opportunity available to more qualified students. “It’s a pretty limited pool, though,” he said. “Very few students graduating with BAs in Chinese have the advanced language level required to be successful in our program.”

For the past four years, all Flagship students received full scholarships from the Chinese government to study at universities in China. “This is because our students have the ability to study alongside Chinese students in their universities,” Walker said.

Like others before them, the 2013–15 “Flagshippers” are a diverse, ambitious, high-achieving group from around the country.

In early January, they got the chance to test their wings, as guests of China’s Haier Corporation, the world’s most recognized brand of Chinese consumer electronics.

Haier flew Mac Carr, Briun Greene, Tina Li, Mack Lorden, Nick Pochedly and Joel Poncz to Las Vegas to advise them on marketing to American consumers at the Consumers Electronics Show, one of the world’s major trade shows.

“This was a remarkable opportunity for our students to work with a significant Chinese organization on a real-life and real-time problem,” Walker said.

The students immediately noticed the need for their services and were kept busy translating the Chinese company rep’s presentations; answering phones; fielding consumers’ questions about the products in English—after conferring with the Haier reps in Mandarin; giving interviews—including Li’s “first-ever with CCTV—Chinese television.”

“For those students with a specific interest in business, this was a promising opportunity,” Walker said. “For others, it was a great chance to work directly with a major Chinese international corporation.”

After graduation, most plan to put what they’ve learned to work—in China, in America or elsewhere.

Mac Carr researches processes and effects of China’s rapid urbanization upon its society. He has been to 59 different places in China. “I hope to consult for Chinese and American companies.”

Briun Greene, a former Army linguist, studies cross-cultural automobile marketing in China. “I plan to find a job or start a business and live and work there indefinitely.”

Tina Li examines the internationalization of Chinese brands. “My dream is to work with the U.S. State Department to create better ties between China and America and remove politics from public affairs.”

Mack Lorden studies cross-cultural marketing. “I want to open a tea shop and introduce the American public to the cultural experience of drinking Chinese tea.”

Nick Pochedly researches cultural origins of HIV stigma and methods to reduce HIV discrimination in rural China. “I plan to attend medical school after I receive my master’s degree.” 

Joel Poncz explores ways to revamp China’s recycling system through a mix of government involvement and privatization. “I want to consult or work for the U.S. State Department.”

The students, finishing their first year of classes at Ohio State, will head off to the program’s training center in Guangzhou, China, in June. They are armed to take on 11 months of language and culture courses; three- to six-month internships in Chinese organizations, and a semester of studies with Chinese peers at a Chinese university.

They return to Ohio State in 2016 for proficiency assessments, thesis completion and their hard-won degrees.

After that, those career doors are wide open.