I spent the week of Nov. 12-19 traveling to Beijing, China, to encourage more faculty and student exchanges and research between UW-Stout and Chinese educational institutions. Christine Colby from our Office of International Education and my wife, Debbie (traveling at her own expense), joined me.
Our first meeting was with the China Scholarship Council. The CSC provides oversight and financing to Chinese citizens wishing to study abroad as well as foreign scholars wanting to study in China. The purpose of the CSC is to develop educational, scientific, technological and cultural exchanges between China and other countries. This past year the CSC sponsored nearly 100,000 scholars.
We had a productive conversation with CSC Deputy Secretary-General Ning Zhang and hope that our discussions will encourage support for student and faculty exchanges between UW-Stout and China’s universities.
Our next meeting was with China’s Department of Vocational Education and International Cooperation & Exchanges. With Director-General Jiping Wang and Director Hongjie Liu, we discussed China’s talent development needs. These needs mirror ours in the U.S. in that China also is experiencing a talent gap brought on by a shortage of designers, engineers and scientists.
Of mutual interest is the encouragement of more study abroad opportunities for student and faculty scholars between China and the U.S. One interesting idea discussed was the development of more international student internships. With this concept our students would intern with a Wisconsin or regional company that has production facilities in China. Such an internship would not only prepare students for employment in their discipline but also would boost their intercultural skills required in our global economy.
Director Wang also expressed an interest in learning more about models of career and technical education that are successful in the U.S., including Fab Labs. There is an interest in pursuing more research regarding the success of various models of CTE delivery, and this could pose an exciting opportunity for us, given our strong reputation and deep experience in this area.
Our third meeting was with the Confucius Institute headquarters. It has a mission similar to the China Scholarship Council in that it supports student and faculty exchanges between China and other countries. We already have a number of partnerships between UW-Stout and universities in China. Support from the Confucius Institute could help further develop these partnerships.
One of our partnering universities, Qilu University of Technology, has jointly applied for a Confucius Institute with us — there are 97 such institutes in the U.S. and 475 around the world — and joined us for this meeting. We made a positive impression on the Confucius Institute representatives and hope that the visit will garner the support needed to expand our partnership and its related activities.
Next we traveled by bullet train to Jinan to visit Qilu University of Technology. As mentioned above, Qilu is already one of our emerging partners in China. While on Qilu’s campus we presented to faculty and students about UW-Stout, toured the College of Bioengineering, the School of Food Science and Engineering, the Qilu Ceramic Glass Science and Art Museum and several art-related laboratories. Qilu has a program array very similar to UW-Stout’s and is a perfect fit for study abroad opportunities.
Our visit to Qilu included the signing of a degree completion agreement between UW-Stout’s food science and technology program and Qilu’s food science and engineering program.
This was my first time to China and one focused mainly on the further development of our partnerships there. But our hotel in Beijing was close enough to walk to the Forbidden City and a short ride to the Great Wall, which we were able to shoehorn in!
We also had the great opportunity to rendezvous with our own Michael Bessert in Beijing. He teaches in our biology department and is on sabbatical this term. As part of his sabbatical, Michael has traveled to China to develop study abroad opportunities for student and faculty research related to the impact that pollution has on the longevity of fish.
My wife, Deb, Christine Colby and I joined Michael and two fellow Chinese researchers, Chenhong Li and Zhenyu Zhang, husband and wife, for a wonderful Peking duck dinner and discussion in Beijing. Their work together is fascinating and exemplifies how study abroad opportunities can enrich everyone involved while conducting meaningful and impactful research.
It was a great week. I found the Chinese people to be incredibly gracious hosts, and they certainly made us feel welcome and comfortable. I hope we can build on our successes to expand our study abroad opportunities in China in the future.