Alumni Spotlight - Gregory Scott (BA ’03)

Gregory Scott (BA ’03) graduated from LA&PS with a BA in East Asian Studies. He earned his master’s degree at the University of Toronto before completing his PhD at Columbia University. He is currently a lecturer of Chinese Culture and History at the University of Manchester in the UK. We chatted with him about his time as an undergraduate at York as well his current role preparing the students of today to understand and interact with China. 

Why did you choose York for your degree in East Asian Studies?
It's not perhaps the best reason but I chose York because at the time they were offering me more scholarship money than any other program that I had applied to. For my first year my whole tuition was covered as they identified me as a promising student coming out of high school. I had applied to three undergraduate programs, two to study Chinese and the third to study religion. York was already high on my list because I knew it was strong in East Asian Studies.

What was your experience at York like?
My experience was really good. I thought it was really important that I live on campus, so even though at the time my parents lived maybe an hour or little more outside of the city, I lived in Calumet College in student dorms. Living there made it possible to interact with and talk with other students who were studying other subjects at all hours of the day. The entire university experience was 24 hours, 7 days a week for me.

Did you have a favorite professor?
Professor Ted Goossen was important to me and my development. Even though he teaches Japanese studies, he was one of the teachers of the foundation course that I took in my first year. Listening to him lecture and talking to him in seminars really made a deep impression on me right from the beginning, both in terms of what the serious study of East Asia ought to be, but also the idea that it should be fun, interesting and enjoyable. To me, he was a model of a professor who took the subject seriously and had a deep knowledge of it.

"My four years at York were foundational for my professional career today. In my current teaching I try to foster the same type of fascinating and engaging experience for my students as I had at York."

How did you grow from an undergrad student to working as a lecturer and historian today?
What punctuated it all was periods of time spent in China and Taiwan as a language student. I was very fortunate to receive a Taiwan-Canada government scholarship between my third and fourth year to study Chinese. It was quite the experience, especially being 20 years old and away from Canada long-term for the first time. Today I’m administering a similar scholarship program in the UK to give something back.

Can you talk about your role as a lecture at the University of Manchester? What do you enjoy about it?
I teach courses on all aspects of China and Chinese communities worldwide. It's not a traditional discipline like history or economics; instead, students get to know a little bit from all different aspects about this one place. We have specialist language tutors who teach them the language. The other lecturers and I teach them about the history, culture,and background of the region. We feel like the two combined are very effective because they learn linguistic literacy, but also cultural literacy. What we aim to produce is not “experts” on one particular aspect of China, but rather graduates who have a comprehensive understanding of China and knowledge of Chinese history, who have the cultural literacy to speak on China and interact with China in an informed way. Many of our students end up working in the UK for businesses that trade with China or deal with China in some way. Others end up returning to China and either continuing their studies or working there.

In terms of things you learned during your time at York, are there any skills or experience that you use today in your daily job?
I'm always thinking about my experience as an undergraduate student and I have to keep reminding myself that very few of my undergraduates are going to go onto an academic career, most are going to use their knowledge and go out into their own professional career. But I try to put myself in their shoes and go back to my experiences and to think about what I found most supportive and effective during my time as a student. My four years at York were foundational for my professional career today. In my current teaching I try to foster the same type of fascinating and engaging experience for my students as I had at York.