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Connecting With Hong Kong

Published: October 15, 2015

Political Science’s Richard Haesly and Liesl Haas visited the University of Hong Kong in July to make a presentation at the 15th International Conference on Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations titled “Affirming Diversity for Social and Educational Justice” sponsored by Common Ground Publishing as well as to connect with CSULB’s partner institution, the City University of Hong Kong.

Haesly, an associate professor who joined political science in 2002, and Haas, a professor who joined in 2001, funded their trip with the support of a faculty grant awarded by the College of Continuing and Professional Education (CCPE). The program, Professors Around the World, is meant to stimulate international initiatives such as study abroad opportunities for students or collaborative international research. Part of the rationale for the internationally related award program is connected with CSULB’s goal of doubling the number of study abroad students.

“It was our first trip to Hong Kong,” said Haesly. “It was exciting to be able to go there and see it first-hand. It came as part of the Professors Around the World program that looks for participants who can extend and deepen linkages with other universities.”

Haesly explained that the couple’s mutual expertise in comparative politics—Haas focuses on gender and religion in Latin America politics and Haesly looks at nationalism in Western Europe—formed the topic of their presentation on how people who are involved in politics through their churches and religious organizations are influenced in the way they see national problems.

“What would happen if one of the monolithic voting groups in the Republican Party such as evangelical Christians would change their monolithic support on the issue of immigration? Many Latinos are Catholics but many are turning to other denominations, particularly Evangelical Protestants. What would happen if diversity in the evangelical community had a political impact? Would it change the priorities of which issues are important? We felt this would be an interesting topic to present internationally where there isn’t a lockstep voting block of evangelical Christians,” he said.

Haesly was pleased by the conference’s response, noting that the presentation worked really well.

“We met some great people who were working on similar topics,” he said. “Some people we met are working with new leaders in evangelical movements. It fit the theme of professors around the world in that we presented our work to an international audience.”

Haesly praised the CCPE grant for its support of internationalizing research.

“Right now, we are studying immigration solely in the U.S., but we might look at the success of the Conservative Party in Canada who have started to reach out to certain ethnic communities as part of their political strategy. That would seem very strange in the U.S.,” he said. “We are interested in projects that not only help CSULB internationalize but increase the number of CSULB students going abroad and the number of foreign students coming to CSULB. Plus, we saw the grant was feasible because we would be in Hong Kong long enough to participate in the conference and re-establish contact with our partner institution, the City University of Hong Kong.”

Liesl Haas (l) and Richard Haesly with their daughter in Hong Kong.
Liesl Haas (l) and Richard Haesly with their daughter in Hong Kong.

Haesly had been active in establishing linkages to Hong Kong through his work on the International Education Committee from 2003-10.

“When I was working to set up linkages with other institutions, I found out that CSULB’s study abroad program is really interested in doubling the number of CSULB students who study abroad from 700 to 1,400 students,” he said. “In order to get there, you have to pull out all the stops. I met with an associate dean at the City University of Hong Kong who is responsible for international linkages and wanted to find out what the linkage was like and what more CSULB could do. It worked really well. I found out things I never would have through an e-mail exchange.”

The trip had an impact on Haesly as a scholar, serving as a reminder to internationalize and put into context his various research projects.

“For instance, what are the comparable challenges immigration offers to Canada and across Europe? We found that, even though most of the evangelical leaders are male, there are many women behind the scenes who push evangelical leaders to de-emphasize such issues as abortion, to think about the culture of life in a different way and start re-prioritizing issues. How about looking at immigration from the point of view of keeping families together?”

This experience prepared the two scholars for additional travel. Earlier in 2015, they visited London through funding from the College of Liberal Arts for a conference sponsored by the Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism.

“It was great to be able to do that,” he said. “Even if a research project seems at first to be focused on the U.S., we have learned how to present those ideas to a wider audience.”

Haesly encourages other faculty members to avail themselves of similar opportunities, noting that their recent trips opened their minds to visiting other places.

“Connections like these are invaluable when it comes to making other connections to other universities,” he said. CSULB is a campus that embraces the teacher-scholar model. This is the kind of program that allows that to happen.”