Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Student to travel to China for help with thesis

By Sadie Hughes

Josh DeFriez, a Utah State University student, will travel alone in China for a month in the hope to develop ideas for his thesis on Chinese history. Though he has been to China twice before, he will be exploring new places.

DeFriez, a double major in economics and international studies with a minor in Chinese, will graduate from Utah State University in May.

He will begin schooling for a master’s degree at the University of Chicago in the fall. In order to prepare for writing his thesis, DeFriez will travel to the various places he plans on writing about.

“I will be starting in Chicago’s master of arts program in social sciences,” DeFriez said. “I’ll focus on 20th century Chinese history.”

Kathmandu and Zhejiang are the two areas where most of his time will be spent.

DeFriez has met with Leonard Rosenband, a professor at USU who has given him guidance on his thesis.

“I have a few ideas, but I want to visit the places I’m going to write about,” DeFriez said. “And I can learn about them firsthand.”

DeFriez has studied Chinese since high school and lived in China for two separate summers but has never been to Zhengzhou or Zhejiang.

“Whenever one is writing about events that happened in specific places at a previous time in human experience, it’s helpful to inhabit those places,” said Susan Cogan, a professor DeFriez took a class from.

“You can literally see the texture of the landscape these people lived in,” she said. “It helps you see them in a more complete way.”

Mount Tiantai in Zhejiang is a spot DeFriez said he is most excited about visiting.

“There’s a really important Buddhist monastery on that mountain,” DeFriez said. “That’s one of my research interests.”

Cogan said she was very impressed with the sophisticated manner in which DeFriez contributed to her course on medieval history in the fall of 2013.

“He was very good at thinking historically,” Cogan said. “It was interesting to see this coming so strongly from someone outside of our major.”

DeFriez can read, write and speak Chinese fluently. He plans on getting his doctorate and be a college professor of Chinese history.

“I’ll just be wandering around and talking to people,” DeFriez said.

DeFriez will fly into Salt Lake City on July 15 and will travel to Chicago in time to start his master’s program in the fall.

“I would just like to publicly congratulate him for his successful graduate application to the University of Chicago,” Cogan said. “Selfishly, I would like to keep him here, but he doesn’t need us anymore.”

“He needs to find out what the rest of the academic world can offer him,” she said. “It’s time for him to make his mark, and I think he’ll make a beautiful mark.”

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