IES Abroad Kunming Center

•    Web site:

•    Contact and Mailing Address:    3rd Floor, College of International Students, Yunnan University, 2 Cuihu Beilu, Wuhua District, Kunming, Yunnan, China

•    Phone :    +86 186 87193036

•    Contact person:    Brian Eyler, Director

  • Email:

•    Year of Establishment :    2013

•    Place of Establishment:    Yunnan University


 Background Information of the IES Kunming Center

The IES Abroad Kunming Center offers curricular programming for US undergraduate students with a focus on international relations, economic development, environmental studies, anthropology, and Chinese language studies.  Its curriculum explores the regional relationships deepening between China and Southeast Asia as well as the political, economic, and socio-structural forces driving change in this dynamic region.   The center offers a 15 credit Regional Development program in the fall and spring and two summer programs, one focusing on regional economic integration and the other on trans-boundary environmental issues.  Enrolled students also go on study tours throughout Yunnan province in addition to an 18 day study tour of countries on the Southeast Asian mainland.

IES Abroad is a non-profit study abroad organization offering programs throughout Asia, Australia, Europe, New Zealand and South America for more than 5000 US-based college students each year.



To serve as a research base and leadership training platform for students interested in the study of China and Southeast Asia in the areas of international relations, governance, economic development, and sustainability.


Student Body and top sending institutions:  IES Kunming student bodies are typically small, averaging between 5 and 15 students per semester.  Most students are in their 3rd year of university.  Top sending institutions include Bucknell University, The University of Redlands, Lafayette University, Virginia State University, College of William and Mary, and the University of Maryland.


2013-14 IES Kunming Center Goals and Objective


  1. Establish a professional and academic environment that highlights unique opportunities for international education based on a rigorous curricular and co-curricular experience.
  2. Use appropriate methods to evaluate all components of curriculum and co-curriculum.  Evaluation should focus on the student’s sense of satisfaction overall as well as quality of intrapersonal growth, interpersonal growth, and acquisition of knowledge.
  3. Promote student contact with the local community through curricular and co-curricular programming.
  4. Raise awareness of the Kunming Center’s programming and footprint in the Kunming community, Mekong development community, and US academic community as well as the study abroad industry at large.
  5. Research and promote more effective teaching methodologies in both language and area studies classrooms
  6. Develop sustainable travel and sustainable homestay model
  7. Seek program approval by IES Abroad Consortium member universities
  8. Ensure students interact with the local Kunming community in a manner that results in a sustainable and positive relationship with local community members.
  9. Develop student’s scholarship abilities and critical thinking skills.  Actively and passively challenge students to examine their worldview.
  10. Support students in discovering a curricular topic that they develop a passion for by actively engaging in high level academic 1-1 and group discussions, promoting ways to develop this interest outside of the classroom.


Links to Programs

Regional Development in China and Southeast Asia (Fall/Spring, 16 credit)

            Environmental Studies (Summer 8 credit)

            China & Southeast Asian Development (Summer 8 credit)


Resources:  A growing 450 volume research library specializing in Regional relations, Southwest China, Environmental studies, and English language literature of Yunnan and Southeast Asia


Service learning placement providers:  Students enrolled in the center’s service learning course complete 11 weeks of volunteering at a local development/environmental NGO, government office, or educational institution.  Our current service learning providers include but are not limited to Village Progress, Yunnan Natural and Cultural Heritage Protection Association, World Wide Fund for Nature, Daytop substance abuse rehabilitation center, FHI360, and the Pan-Asia Transportation and Logistics Research Center.  If you are interested in providing a service learning placement to our students please contact Brian Eyler at


Staff Directory

Brian Eyler: Director;

Student Affairs Coordinator: William Feinberg;

Head Chinese Teacher: Zheng Jun

Resident Advisor: Catherine O’Connor


Key Faculty Bios:

R. Edward Grumbine earned a PhD. in environmental policy from the Union Institute and has worked on bringing conservation science into resource management policy and planning since the late 1980s. Currently, he holds the position of senior international scientist at the Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Yunnan Province.  Present projects include work on defining transboundary environmental security on China’s western borders, hydropower development impacts in the Mekong River, and biodiversity conservation issues in China. He has served as a faculty at UC Santa Cruz and Prescott University and directed the University of California Sierra Institute.  His third book, Where the Dragon Meets the Angry River: Nature and Power in the Peoples Republic of China (Island Press, 2010), surveys conservation issues in China.

Kabir Mansingh Heimsath, PhD University of Oxford,  grew up between a small ranch in Texas, New Delhi, India, and suburban Washington, D.C. He completed a BA in Religious Studies from University of California, Berkeley (1992) and an MA also in Religious Studies focusing on Tibetan Buddhism from the University of Washington, Seattle (1995). Kabir has worked in a number of capacities between Kathmandu and Lhasa since 1996, in particular as a trekking guide, consultant, and a lecturer and program director in Tibetan Studies for US university academic programs. He completed another MSc in Visual Anthropology from University of Oxford in 2005 and his doctoral thesis is entitled ‘The Urban Space of Lhasa.’  His research interests include visual studies, tourism, urban anthropology, anthropology of space, and contemporary Tibetan Buddhist practice.

Prof. Dequn Zhou earned a Ph.D. in Ecology and Biodiversity from the University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, P.R. China in 2001.  He is currently a professor of ecology and conservation biology at Kunming University of Science and Technology, Kunming City, Yunnan Province, P.R. China, where since 2008 he has taught seminars and lectures on Restoration Ecology, Conservation Action Planning, and Environmental Challenges in China.    From 2004-2008, Prof. Zhou was the project manager, China Program, The Nature Conservancy and in charge of Laojun Mountain National Park promotion.  Current research areas focus on Conservation Biology, Protecting Areas, and Mycology

Brian Eyler serves as the Director of the IES Kunming Center at Yunnan University and is an expert on China’s economic integration with the Greater Mekong Subregion.  He conducts research with various stakeholders in the region including Yunnanese government officials and businesspeople, local NGOs and stakeholders in Thailand and Laos.  He acts as a consultant to the UNDP Lancang-Mekong Economic Cooperation Program in Kunming and administers the website.  In 2005, Brian earned an MPIA focusing on the Chinese economy from UC San Diego and a BA from Bucknell University.   Previously Brian served for five years as the director of the IES Beijing Center at Beijing Foreign Studies University.

Chinese language professors are provided through cooperation with Yunnan University



The IES Kunming Centers programs put students and faculty in contact with a network of stakeholders at the national, local, and supranational level to provide a robust range of opinion and analysis on pressing regional issues.  The following organizations provide experiences for our students.



  • Asian Development Bank
  • Mekong River Commission
  • The World Wide Fund for Nature
  • Yunnan Provincial Department of Environmental Protection
  • Yunnan Provincial Department of Commerce
  • Kunming Institute of Botany
  • Lancang Mekong Economic Cooperation Office, joint UNDP-Yunnan government sponsored program
  • Yunnan University GMS Research Center
  • Pan-Asia Transport and Logistics Research Center
  • Green Watershed
  • Chiang Mai University
  • The Burma Relief Centre
  • Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce
  • Faculty of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, Mae Fa Luang University
  • Mushroom Research Center
  • Mae Salong Baptist Church
  • Hill and Development Foundation, Mae Salong
  • Chiang Saen Municipal Government
  • Love Chiang Khong
  • Big Brother Mouse
  • COPE Center, Vientiane
  • Fishbio
  • Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade
  • US Embassies in Hanoi, Bangkok, and Vientiane
  • Asia Foundation
  • Khiri Travel
  • Green Adventure Laos
  • Eviva Tours Vietnam

Sample Southeast Asia Study Tour Itinerary


Day 1: Kunming to Bangkok, Thailand

Afternoon flight from Kunming to Bangkok

7:00pm Local Thai Dinner with IES friends

Day 2: Bangkok: Three Generations Barge trip on Chao Phraya River

Morning: Orientation, Intro to Chao Phraya watershed, Macro-invertebrate study, Thai language

Afternoon: Visit village Wat Chimplee, discuss tourism impact

Evening: Cultural cabaret, intro to Thai Culture


Day 3:Bangkok: Day 2 on Three Generations Barge

Morning: Morning market shopping, kayaking, sustainability compass exercise

Afternoon: Water testing and Buddhism talk at temple; tour of Ayutthaya; return to BKK by van

Day 4: Bangkok-Chiang Mai,Thailand

Morning: Meetings at Asian Development Bank and World Wide Fund for Nature Greater Mekong office

Afternoon:         Free time to tour Bangkok;

Late evening flight to Chiang Mai


Day 5: Chiang Mai, Thailand

10:30am Walk through old town

12:00pm Lunch with Southeast Asia expert and freelance journalist Tom Fawthrop

2:00 pm  Afternoon symposium at Chiang Mai University

4:30pm   Drive to Chiang Mai University Doi Suthep sustainable forestry project (walking tour of mountaintop area 12km from Chiang Mai and overlooking city).

7:00pm Sunset at Doi Suthep, rest of evening free (suggest visit Night Bazaar and Muy Thai boxing)


Day 6: Chiang Mai, Thailand

9:00am Meeting at Earthrights environmental law firm

10:45am Burma talk at US Consulate

2:00pm  Talk on Burmese refugee & migrant labor with Pippa Curwen, Director Burma Relief Center

Evening: Exchange with Kachin refugee group at Café Sangdee


Day 7: Chiang Mai-Mae Salong, Thailand

Morning free

1:30pm Depart for Mae Saelong hill area (village settled by decommissioned Chinese KMT soliders)

5:00pm Arrive in Mae Saelong; brief tour

6:00pm Dinner and Introduction to life in Mae Salong by Baptist Pastor Yang at local Baptist church

7:30pm Students enter local Akha homestays


Day 8: Mae Salong, Thailand

Day long program on sustainable hill development at HADF (Hill Area Development Foundation) with Thai Senator Tuenjai and faculty from Mae Fahlong University

2:00pm Free time with host families


Day 9: Mae Salong-Mae Sae/Tachilek-Chiang Khong – Thailand and Burma

7:30am Depart for Mae Sae/Tachilek border (1hr)

8:30am Cross into Myanmar at Tachilek for morning, lunch

1:30pm Return to Mae Sae, depart for Chiang Saen (1hr)

2:30pm Arrive in Chiang Saen, tour Golden Triangle Scenic Area, Guest talk by Chiang Saen Mayor on Chinese investment profile in the Golden Triangle

5:00pm Depart for Chiang Khong (1hr)

Evening: Dinner and Buddhist Welcoming Ceremony at Pak Yingtai Village


Day 10: Chiang Khong-Huayxai, Laos

Morning: Fisheries demonstration in local village followed by Community forum with village leaders and NGO leaders at Pak Yingtai village

Afternoon: Cross Mekong to Laos

Evening: Intro to Laos and Lao culture


Day 11: Day long river cruise from Huayxai to Luang Prabang, Laos

Morning: Board boat for 250km Mekong cruise to Luang Prabang (10 hours) classes and lunch on boat

Evening: Dinner at Tamnak Laos, Luang Prabang


Day 12: Luang Prabang, Laos                       

Morning: City tour of Luang Prabang; Xieng Thong temple talk and Buddhism and Ecology talk.

Afternoon, evening free


Day 13: Luang Prabang, Laos

Morning: Eco-tourism and the elephant slave trade: visit Elephant Village, meet with managers and mahouts (elephant drivers); 1hr. elephant ride through Nam Khan River and forest; visit Tad Sae waterfalls.

Afternoon: Lunch and kayak back to Luang Prabang (3hrs) – ok for beginners, local fishing demonstrations en route.


Day 14: Luang Prabang, Laos

Morning: survey local markets, compare Lao and Chinese markets

Afternoon: free time

Evening: Cooking class at Tamarind


Day 15: Luang Prabang, Laos

Day trip to local village and Chinese constructed dam on Nam Khan river.

Day 16: Luang Prabang – Vientiane, Laos

Free morning in Luang Prabang

Afternoon: Airport transfer and flight to Vientiane

Evening: Visit That Luang and dinner with Vietnam War veterans


Day 17: Vientiane, Laos

Morning: 9am Food Security talk with Jannie Armstrong; 11am: US Embassy visit.

Afternoon: Fish conservation talk with Fishbio.  COPE Center for UXO bomb  victims.

Evening: free


Day 18: Vientiane, Laos

Morning seminars at Mekong River Commission Secretariat

Afternoon free for planning symposium

Evening: Return to Kunming


2013-2014 Academic Year Calendar

June 2013

6/6 Prep for orientation/student arrival

6/13 Student arrival

6/13-18 Orientation

6/28-7/2 Dali weekend trip


7/4 July 4th party

7/12 Chinese   language final

7/13-31 Mobile   learning trip



8/2 Regional simulation

8/3 Student departure

8/3-8/18 Staff vacation

8/11-8/23 Optional Tibet trip

8/19 RA training/prep for student   arrival

8/23 Student arrival/orientation   begins

8/25-30 Orientation in Dali

8/31 Homestay move-in


9/2 Chinese language classes begin

9/16 Discipline courses begin

9/27 Course Drop-Add Deadline


10/1 National Holiday (no Chinese classes)

10/2-6 Long Weekend trip to Lao Cai/Sapa

10/16-22 IES Annual conference/CD meeting

10/17 Chinese language midterms

10/31-11/3 Long weekend for self travel


11/8 Program withdrawal deadline

11/22 Chinese language classes and discipline   courses conclude

11/23-12/11 Mobile learning trip



12/13 Regional Simulation

12/14 Student Departure/Fall semester ends

12/15-1/5 Staff vacation

Staff survey trip to S. Vietnam and Cambodia

January 2014

1/6 Prepare for student arrival/orientation

1/10 Student arrival/orientation begins

1/12-17 Orientation in Dali

1/18 Homestay move-in

1/20 Chinese language classes begin

1/29-2/5 Spring festival vacation


2/6 Discipline courses begin

2/21 Course Drop-Add Deadline

2/28 Chinese language mid-terms


3/9-3/15 IES Familiarization trip to KMG &   Chiang Mai

3/13-16 four day long travel weekend

3/28 Program withdrawal Deadline


4/11 Chinese finals and discipline courses   conclude

4/12-30 Mobile learning trip to Vietnam and   Cambodia


5/2 Regional Simulation

5/3 Student Departure/Spring semester ends

5/4 Staff vacation begins

(potential customized programs)


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