Dong Han

Southern Illinois University

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From Attorney to the Classroom: Han Encourages Students to be Open-Minded

By Pete Rosenbery

Dong Han’s fascination with the law propelled his professional career as an in-house counsel dealing with intellectual property management and international legal affairs with China Central Television (CCTV) in Beijing, China.

Yet Han, an assistant professor in the School of Journalism, realized his passion wasn’t always in representing a client to find a solution in a case. While his legal profession was challenging and good, Han didn’t believe it was a lifetime career. His interest was in dissecting the law to find the processes into how and why certain laws are made and how law “interweaves into social life.”

Coupling his interest in law with a familiarity of being on a college campus that dates back to his parents being professors at a university in China, Han has found his niche between his research and teaching students the importance of understanding media law.

“Dong Han is an excellent teacher in areas of media law, intellectual property rights and sports promotion in the School of Journalism,” said Kavita Karan, professor and interim director. “The students find him an interesting and accomplished teacher with a good sense of humor.  His research on media issues on China has been well-received at many international conferences, and his papers have been published in journals and as book chapters.”

Han left his corporate attorney job in China to pursue his doctorate in communications from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he lived for seven years until 2011. He then became an assistant professor of communication at Eastern New Mexico University before coming to SIU Carbondale in August 2012.

Han said it is important for journalism students to understand the legal process and not get caught in jargon.

“You don’t really need to know all the details of the law; what you need to do is understand some basic ideas about the law,” he said. “You need to use every day language to explain the basic principles behind the law so they can understand the issues and then write about it.”

Han believes one of his former professors in China was correct when he said a teacher’s goal is to make his students “confused.” If that does not happen, students are less likely to learn and have an open mind, Han said.

Han encourages his students to discuss concepts and alternatives from their personal perspective.

“I believe my job is to make them more open minded at the end of the semester than they are the beginning of the semester and to help them develop critical thinking skills to not blindly accept what people tell you,” he said.

Han’s research focuses on market expansion in media and communication sectors and the role of law in the processes of cultural commodification. His current work focuses on law and policy on news websites, video streaming on the Chinese Internet and copyright laws in a transforming China. He is also preparing a book manuscript on the creation of intellectual property that examines copyright and communication in China. Han’s research will examine the nation’s culture, how China developed its copyright system, and where it is headed given rapid changes within the country.

Han has also published with leading academic journals including the “International Journal of Communication, Television & New Media, and Ethnic and Racial Studies.” He is an editorial board member of “Routledge Handbook of Chinese Media” and a professional blogger with Data Driven Journalism of the European Journalism Centre.