Marietta to conduct Three Gorges Dam study in China

Under construction for the past 14 years, the Three Gorges Dam - the largest and most controversial hydroelectric power-generating dam - is nearing completion on the Yangtze River in China. Next May, Marietta College faculty and students will spend two weeks in China studying the social, economic and environmental impact of the project.

Recently the College announced that the overseas study program will be open to interested members of the Marietta community. The trip is being coordinated through Marietta College's Asian Studies Program and the McDonough Center for Leadership and Business.

"Participants in the study tour will learn about contemporary Chinese leadership in hydropower industry and the country's dilemma in its drive for economic growth and environmental protection," said Dr. Luding Tong, Director of the Asian Studies Program and Chair of the Modern Languages Department. She cites a Wall Street Journal article in saying, "Battling for the country's increasing demand for energy, China sees building dams to produce clean energy as one of the only ways to meet its needs without causing massive pollutions."

The Three Gorges Dam project has been widely criticized for its negative environmental impact and for causing the displacement of millions of Chinese residents who live along the banks of the river. Officials, though they have admitted that the project has some flaws, also defend the more than 7,600-foot dam by saying the hydroelectric generation unit will significantly reduce the amount of coal burned to generate power for the country, thus reducing harmful emissions.

Students, faculty and community members will meet with Chinese government officials, locals, scientists and critics to study the Three Gorges Dam project and the impact that it will have on the environment. The tour costs $3,000 per person and includes airfare, lodging, food, sightseeing and local transportation in China. To participate in the three-day post-program tour costs an additional $250 per person. The application form and a $500 non-refundable deposit is due by Dec. 10 for students and Dec. 30 for community members. An application form will be available at

Education major Laura Denny '12 attended the first informational session about the trip and hopes to travel with the group in May. "One thing I hope to get from it is (an understanding) of how other cultures are," she said. So far, more than a dozen Marietta College students have shown an interest in participating in the overseas study.

Dr. Gama Perruci, Dean of the McDonough Center, said past student and faculty trips to China have been successful learning experiences. "This new trip gives us an opportunity to explore a new side of China and focus on an issue that is very timely. Given the College's current focus on energy resources and leadership, this trip will provide an excellent combination of the College's three niche programs - China, Petroleum and Leadership."

Tong says students taking the overseas study can earn one credit in Chinese 396 or three credits in Chinese 130. Students enrolled in the Chinese 130 course must complete assigned readings before leaving for China, a personal journal and a 15- to 20-page paper about the trip is required. Students can also earn credit during the trip by complete Leadership 350 (Study Abroad) requirements. "LEAD 350 is designed to focus on leadership challenges in a country experiencing rapid development," Perruci said. "Students are asked to do some reading prior to the trip and then develop a research project that can be pursued during the trip. Following the trip, they complete the project and write a research paper. In addition, they also keep a journal with reflections on their experiences."

Tong added that the "Asian Studies Program plans to organize its fourth Undergraduate Asian Studies Symposium in 2009-10 as part of the College's celebration of its 175th birthday. A roundtable discussion will address the topic of energy and environment issues that China faces, and their challenges to the world."

Students, faculty and community members will also be exposed to many popular Chinese cultural sites, including spending time at the Chengdu Research Base for Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu. "Our post-program tour will visit the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square and will enjoy tasting Beijing duck and watching Jingju (Beijing Opera)," Tong said.

"During this academic year, the McDonough Center has been emphasizing energy issues through its Executive-in-Residence Program," Perruci said. "Energy also has emerged as a central theme in the College's Vision 2020 statement. The China trip will be a wonderful complement to this focus. Energy is a very critical topic right now, and students will have an opportunity to experience firsthand what China is doing to become more energy independent. These decisions will have an impact in the rest of the world."