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Rivers In Transition: Cultural and Physical Landscapes Along China's Yellow River

Ten Thousand Miles along the Yellow River (Met Museum)Ten Thousand Miles along the Yellow River, image from Met Museum.

For millennia, humans in what is now China have responded to the Yellow River—historically, one of the most dynamic river systems in the world—by damming and channelizing the river and managing ever larger populations along its course. Students enrolling in Rivers in Transition courses will explore the interaction between water and humankind in the Yellow River Basin, looking to myth, art, literature, political discourse, and hydraulic processes as guides. Paintings and literature will provide narratives of the complex relationship, while maps and landforms will reveal river conditions in the past.

In May/June 2017 and May/June 2019, 12 students who have completed Rivers courses will travel to China. There, guided by the Rivers co-directors and members of Henan University's Yellow River Institute, they will engage in field studies in collaboration with local students.

To be eligible to participate in Rivers field studies, students must complete two Rivers core courses, one from the humanities/arts or one from the social sciences AND one from the natural sciences. Completion of Rivers elective courses, including Chinese language, will increase the likelihood of selection for field studies. Students accepted for field studies will take a .5 unit orientation seminar in spring 2017 or spring 2019.

Students admitted to the field studies course will be eligible to apply for scholarships to help meet the cost of participation.

It is hoped that Rivers students will consider taking additional Asian studies, environmental science, and Chinese language courses after completing the field studies course. Students might also consider spending a semester or more at Henan University as exchange students.


  • Daniel Youd, Co-Director, Rivers in Transition,, ext. 2081
  • Sue Swanson, Co-Director, Rivers in Transition,, ext. 2132
  • Pablo Toral, Contributing faculty member,, ext. 2166
  • Paul Stanley, Contributing faculty member,, ext. 2258
  • Elizabeth Brewer, Project Administrator,, ext. 2269

To Apply

  1. Complete the application form.
  2. Ask two faculty members who have agreed to recommend you for the field studies to complete the recommendation form
  3. Email an unofficial transcript from the Portal to Taylor Ajamian, Academic Program Coordinator for the Sanger Science Center, at


  • Application deadline: October 12, 2018
  • Decision notification: October 26, 2018

Rivers in Transition Courses

All courses carry one unit of credit unless otherwise indicated.

Core Courses

To be eligible for field studies, students must complete two core courses (one from each category below) and the orientation seminar.

Choose one from:

  • CHIN 280, Book of Changes, spring
  • POLS 255, Global Political Ecology, spring

Choose one from:

  • GEOL 110, Environmental Geology and Geologic Hazards, fall
  • GEOL 235, Surface Processes and Landforms, fall

Orientation Seminar

  • Rivers in Transition Orientation (.5 unit), spring

Elective Courses

Completion of Rivers elective courses, including Chinese language (for non-Chinese speakers), will increase the likelihood of selection for field studies.

  • GEOL 100, Earth: Exploring a Dynamic Planet, spring
  • ENVS 258, Interdisciplinary Applications of Geographic Information Systems, spring
  • POLS 241, China: The Long Revolution, spring
  • Chinese language courses, First- through Fourth-Year, fall and spring

    Note: Additional spring 2019 elective courses will be posted to this site in advance of advising and registration for the spring semester.

    Field Studies

    • Rivers in Transition. Summer 2019