Trip to China highlights importance of collaboration, cooperation

May 26, 2011 by NMSU President Barbara Couture @NMSU

NMSU President Barbara Couture

NMSU President Barbara Couture

The wind has died down and brought me back from China, where NMSU’s Vimal Chaitanya (vice president for research), Ken Hammond (director, Confucius Institute) and education faculty members Dana Christman and Jeanette Haynes Writer and I met with several leaders of Chinese universities and with Madame Xu Lin, director-general of Hanban, the Chinese national language and culture institute that funds our Confucius Institute.

The trip was great: We solidified some former agreements and made new ones, all with the aim of increasing NMSU’s ability to attract highly qualified Chinese students to our graduate and undergraduate programs and to increase opportunities for research partnerships between NMSU faculty and faculty across several disciplines at key Chinese universities. China is investing heavily in their universities-several of the institutions that we visited have been targeted for special funds to encourage study abroad and promote research collaborations.

Everywhere we went we found Chinese faculty to be impressed by the breadth and depth of NMSU’s offerings in engineering, science, technology, business and the humanities and social sciences. We began our trip at Donghua University in Shanghai, where we have had a long and successful student exchange program. We arrived on the day of their all-campus athletic games, and witnessed a cheer group of about 400 women in cheer outfits accompanying a martial arts demonstration.

Next, it was on to East China University of Science and Technology, which is strong in chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, information technology and biochemical engineering. They are interested in partnerships in these fields, plus sociology, social work, English and business. And were they ready for us! The foyer of their international services building was decked out in silk chile ristras. How fitting! East China is also strong in engineering, and recently developed a cooperative agreement with the University of Houston. After a great dinner at a local restaurant in the “French” quarter of Shanghai, where sycamore trees line the streets and are decorated with lively orange Chinese lanterns, we went on to Beijing. There we met with faculty and administrators from Beijing University of Chemical Technology, another university very interested in 2+2, 2+3, and other joint- or dual-degree arrangements. BUCT specializes in chemical engineering, environmental engineering and material science. They could send 20-30 students annually in chemical engineering alone, but they also are interested in our programs in English education, TESOL, literature, public administration, aerospace and computer science. They teach classes to international students in English, and all of their syllabi are translated into English. To give you an idea of the scale of Chinese universities: BUCT recruits 500 students annually in chemical engineering alone. Their faculty is eager to establish research relationships with our own. Our own professor Shuguang Deng was very impressed by their laboratories; they also have collaborations with industries in the U.S., including Valero of New Mexico.

At East China University of Science and Technology, the foyer of their international services building was decorated with silk chile ristras (photo courtesy Barbara Couture).

At East China University of Science and Technology, the foyer of their international services building was decorated with silk chile ristras (photo courtesy Barbara Couture).

Also in Beijing, we had the privilege of meeting with Madame Xu Lin, the director-general of Hanban, the national Chinese language and culture agency, who had several ideas for ways that we can expand relationships for our NMSU Confucius Institute. Hanban’s headquarters are filled with Chinese artifacts and visual displays designed to help individuals learn about Chinese language and culture. We got to visualize ourselves as citizens of ancient dynasties and tapped into the electronic field in a cauldron that “magically” translated ancient Chinese characters into modern figures, showing the origins of the Chinese language.

From Beijing we sped overland (with a crazy driver!) to Shijiazhuang for a visit to Shijiazhuang Technical College and Chinese Language Institute, the institution with which we have partnered for our Confucius Institute. Shijiazhuang has several opportunities for internships for business students with Chinese industries. In the evening, we met with the director of education for Hebei Province. The province has 70 million people in it, and includes the cities of Beijing and Shijiazhuang. The director is in charge of coordinating education for the entire province, including all of the 100-plus institutions of higher education within it. He expressed great interest in having NMSU increase its contacts with other universities in the province.

Then on to Xi’an-the ancient capital of China, in the northwestern part of the country. Xi’an is where the famed terra cotta warriors are housed as well as the Stone Tablets, which are kind of a Rosetta Stone for the Chinese language, showing ancient scripts. A beautiful brick and stone wall, extending about 7 kilometers, surrounds the city. Vice President Chaitanya and I rented a couple of bikes and rode along a road on the top of the wall for a while, taking in the sites of Xi’an on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. We signed MOUs with two universities in Xi’an, Northwestern Polytechnical University and Xi’an Jiaotong University. Both are top institutions in China and we look forward to many future opportunities for collaboration. Leaving no time to rest, we flew back to Beijing the same evening. The next day, we visited Beijing Normal University, which has had an excellent relationship with NMSU’s College of Education and housed a very successful joint conference with us in 2010 on citizenship education. They now are interested in training for teachers and administrators in multicultural education and ethics.

Did I forget to mention the food? How could I! Chinese food everywhere was excellent and we enjoyed noting the differences in the cuisine of Shanghai, Beijing and Xi’an. Shanghai is noted for milder tastes, Beijing for the all-important Beijing duck, and Xi’an for a great flat noodle served with peppers and sweet and sour sauce-yum! In short, we had a tasty and productive visit to China and I look forward to working with our provost, our vice president for research and our deans on finding ways to keep strong the many connections we made.

Many of you already are following my Facebook page (search for nmsupresident), and I am planning to share some of the photos I took during our trip to China on the page. Take a look!

I know many of you will be on international trips this summer. I hope that you will share your experiences with us as we work together to extend and expand NMSU’s international presence. Best wishes for success in all that you do.

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