Grant to Promote Urban China Research Network
By Carol Olechowski
A three-year Andrew W. Mellon
Foundation grant totaling nearly half a million dollars will build on the
already strong research expertise of the University’s China scholars while
launching an initiative to expand research endeavors in that area.
The $480,000 grant will support
development of an Urban China Research Network, a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional
network of scholars who conduct and support research and training activities
focused on migration within contemporary China and its impact on urbanization.
The program will facilitate the exchange of information among researchers
at Albany and the other institutions collaborating on the effort, and provide
incentives for interdisciplinary and international scholarly collaboration.
In addition, the Mellon grant will add significant funding for research
projects supported by the network and foster institutional development
within the participating centers in China.
According to Vice President
for Research Christopher F. D’Elia, “the receipt of this prestigious grant
from the Mellon Foundation underscores the enormous strength we have in
the social sciences at our University. The Albany faculty leading this
effort are among the nation’s finest researchers in their fields.”
The Mellon Foundation award,
says Center for Social and Demographic Analysis (CSDA) Director Stewart
Tolnay, “will make the University at Albany a major player in the study
of internal migration and urbanization in China. Only nine such awards
were given by the foundation to study population movements in less developed
countries, placing Albany alongside such outstanding research institutions
as Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, Brown, and the University
of North Carolina.
“Having the Urban China Research
Network anchored here at Albany will also provide our faculty and students
an opportunity to be at the cutting edge of research into these important
topics. Furthermore, the results of the scholarship produced by the network
will inform policy makers in China as they contend with the massive movement
of people from the countryside to the city, and with the many consequences
such migration has for the urban environment.”
As a “virtual center,” the
Urban China Research Network will bring University researchers together
with their colleagues on three continents.
International advisory board
members at Albany will include the Department of Sociology’s John Logan,
Christopher Smith of the Department of Geography and Planning, and Jennifer
Rudolph, Department of History. University sociologists Glenn Deane, Nancy
Denton, William Frey, and Scott South are expected to participate, as is
geographer/planner Ray Bromley, notes Tolnay, a sociology professor who
will also lend his expertise to the network.
Other U.S.-based board members
will include faculty at the University of California, Irvine; Virginia
Commonwealth University; the University of Washington, Seattle; Queens
College of the City University of New York; the University of Chicago;
and the University of Southern California. Faculty representing the fields
of sociology, urban planning, anthropology, and geography at foreign institutions,
including Hong Kong University; the University of Liverpool, England; Canada’s
universities of Calgary and British Columbia; and the National University
of Singapore’s East Asian Institute, will also participate.
The proposal to develop the
Urban China Research Network grew from a recognition that, during the past
20 years, “China has experienced a number of parallel and interrelated
transformations,” says Smith. “The transition from a socialist economy
to one that is market oriented is both a result of the country's reform
process and a catalyst” that has privatized China’s farms, encouraged peasants
to become entrepreneurial, stimulated internal migration, and spurred rapid
urbanization. As a result, industrial and enterprise reforms in municipal
areas have made China a player in the international marketplace, a leading
exporter of manufactured goods.
With economic reforms and
the rapid increase in urbanization giving rise to “a wide range of social
and economic changes in lifestyles, attitudes, and behaviors,” notes Tolnay,
“we have an extraordinary opportunity to conduct research focusing on policy.”
Initially, network research themes will include such topics as urban morphology
and spatial reorganization, the dynamics of rural-to-urban migration; the
operation of urban labor markets; housing and settlement patterns of migrants;
and changing lifestyles and behaviors of migrants in the cities. These
topics, in turn, relate to “migration and urbanization-related policy issues
currently being debated in China, including policies related to housing,
neighborhood development, social service delivery, urban planning, public
health, and criminal justice,” Logan adds.
Network participants will
carry out their research through institutional exchanges of faculty, fieldwork
in China, and funding to support graduate student research. Each year,
researchers will gather at the University to review their progress to date
and to determine the direction their future efforts should take. In addition,
data will be made available through a special project Web site.
Albany will supplement the
Mellon grant with funding of $324,900 over three years. The University
contribution will support a half-time programmer /analyst who will create
and maintain the network Web site and ensure that archived data is available
to network members. It will also cover a portion of the facilities and