A second book by Yongfang Chen ’10 will hit shelves in Hong Kong this spring, and will provide insight about liberal arts education for a Chinese audience. “Traverse the Ivory Tower: My Academic Journey at Bowdoin” is a selection of Chen’s undergraduate essays and interviews he conducted with College administrators.
“In the most recent decade, the concept of the liberal arts education has gained a greater popularity among China’s high school students and parents,” Chen wrote in an email to the Orient.
“While a lot of them struggle to gain admission into institutions like Bowdoin, they often have no idea what kind of life they will experience in college. This book will answer this question precisely,” he wrote.
Wen Wei Publishing Co., Ltd will print about 15,000 copies of the book sometime between April and May, which will be primarily be available in Hong Kong with limited availability online.
In 2010, Chen graduated from Bowdoin with a double major in Economics and Psychology. He was a Sarah and James Bowdoin Scholar and took five classes each semester, including independent studies in economics, history, film studies, asian studies, and psychology.
“One of my history intermediate independent study essays is about the only Chinese female Emperor. I wrote hundreds of pages in that year. Endless research, reading, writing, and re-writing almost drove me crazy,” Chen wrote.
“I still remember how painful it was to look for proper primary resources to support my arguments. But I enjoyed it deeply.”
After graduating, Chen travelled around North America.
“The initial thought of publishing this book emerged during this travel,” he wrote. Eventually, Chen returned to Shanghai to join one of China’s private equity firms as an IPO investor.
While at Bowdoin, Chen co-authored his first book, “A True Liberal Arts Education,” in 2009 with Lin Nie of Franklin and Marshall College and Li Wan of Bucknell University.
“The three of us elaborated on our academic and social life in our corresponding colleges, our thinking of the system, and our hope for the development of higher education in China,” Chen wrote.
“I particularly described my reading load, course selection, professors, writing intensity and the opportunities that Bowdoin offered.”
The book sold out in its first three months and was a best seller in China that year.
Chen’s upcoming book also aims to show the value of a liberal arts education, but from a different approach. Written in English instead of Chinese, the book shows numerous examples of scholarly writing at Bowdoin, and “will not be as easy of a read as my first book is for the general Chinese population,” according to Chen. “But that’s exactly the point of it.”
After his first book’s success, many Chinese people expressed their interest to Chen in the American liberal arts educational system.
“After a long deliberation, I thought a book of my Bowdoin essays and some added features of my life at Bowdoin could realize this goal,” he wrote.
A preface by President Barry Mills will appear in the forthcoming book along with interviews with administrators in the appendix, which Chen conducted in 2009.
“I told [Mills] about my plan to publish this book two years ago and it was very kind for him to agree to write the preface for my book. I really appreciated his writing,” Chen wrote.
The main message of the book is to educate the Chinese audience about the value of a liberal arts education.
“Writing essays is a significant part of our academic life at Bowdoin,” Chen wrote. “The college education is about thinking critically and creatively. The skills you gained in college should help you embark on any journeys after graduation, be it work, graduate studies, or volunteering.”
Chen says he will continue to work in private equity after the book is released.
“The intellectual curiosity that I developed at Bowdoin will stay with for the rest of my life.”