Strengthening Ties

Oct 30th, 2008 | By | Category: Campus News, October 30, 2008

Two-week tour helps expand connections between UNL, Chinese universities

For a group of university officials, a two-week, working trip to China ended like any good journey abroad – they returned buoyed by new friendships, a little too full of good food, and recalling experiences only an ancient culture can offer.

However, the Oct. 5 to 18 trip was more than a sight-seeing adventure. The group, led by Chancellor Harvey Perlman, attended a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Confucius Institute, fostered relationships with Chinese students interested in coming to UNL, and discussed research and other partnerships with officials from Zhejiang and Xi’an Jiaotong universities.

And, there was the matter of a table tennis challenge Perlman made to Nanning Zheng, president of Xi’an Jiaotong University.

Barbara Couture in China
CLASSROOM TALK – Barbara Couture, senior vice chancellor for academic affairs, talks with students at Xi’an Jiaotong University on Oct. 14. UNL officials visited with university officials from Xi’an Jiaotong and Zhejiang universities during their trip to China, Oct. 5-18.

“The primary purpose of the trip was to meet with the board of directors,” said Perlman. “We also went to further develop our partnerships with Chinese universities.”

UNL previously established partnership degree and faculty exchange programs with Xi’an Jiaotong and Zhejiang city colleges.

Through the degree program, students study in the Chinese universities for two years, then complete their study at UNL. The degree program with Xi’an Jiaotong University City College began in fall 2007 and has an enrollment of 81 sophomores and 55 freshmen. The Zhejiang University City College program began fall 2008 with an enrollment of 32 freshmen.

During the trip to China, fostering relationships in agriculture research was a key issue as the Chinese Central Committee announced an initiative to overhaul the country’s land-use policies. The plan, unveiled Oct. 19, aims to jump-start ag productivity and foster prosperity among farmers, who have been bypassed by China’s economic growth.

“UNL’s Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources has a joint research agreement to work with Zhejiang University to set up an experimental station and a demonstration center for irrigation,” said David Lou, director of UNL’s Confucius Center. “The Chinese government has made agriculture one of its major programs for the next 30 years. Large amounts of funds will be given to projects targeted in agriculture development.”

The university is also in discussion with Xi’an Jiaotong to establish joint research programs in the transportation and infrastructure, biosciences, materials science and climate change.

“Agriculture is a target area among each of the areas discussed,” said Lou.

While in China, Prem Paul, vice chancellor for research, visited with William Chang, director of the Beijing office of the National Science Foundation of the United States.

“We learned a great deal about the priorities of the National Science Foundation of China to foster collaborations between the United States and China,” said Paul. “These are opportunities we will be pursuing.”

Paul also visited with Dr. Marc Bultreys, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Global Aids Program in China. Bultreys and the Chinese CDC are working with UNL researchers to study the transmission of AIDS. The research is funded by a National Institutes of Health grant awarded to Charles Wood, UNL professor of biological sciences.

From Oct. 8 to 10, Perlman, Lou and Barbara Couture, senior vice chancellor for academic affairs, visited with delegations from Zhejiang University and its city college campus.

The meetings resulted in discussions on the agriculture experiment station, the development of a master’s degree program in agriculture (three years studying in China, one year at UNL), and a signed partnership agreement.

Between Oct. 11 and 13, the UNL group went on a cruise of the Yangtze River, seeing China’s Three Gorges Dam project. Members of the UNL contingent paid for the cruise themselves.

The final three days, Oct. 13 to 16, were spent in Xi’an, China, talking with officials from Xi’an Jiaotong University and its city college campus.

UNL officials made sure to meet with Chinese students at both university stops. The relationship with Chinese students is bolstered through the agreements in place. UNL has also established offices – adorned with UNL logos and pictures – at Zhejiang and Xi’an Jiaotong city colleges. The offices are staffed by workers who assist students with coming to UNL.

“We do have eight students from Xi’an Jiaotong University City College already enrolled and studying here at UNL,” said Lou. “Another three are coming in fall 2009.”

Academic Affairs is working on programs to help the Chinese students transition to the United States.

“Chinese students come to us well-prepared in math and some technical areas – some far better prepared than American students – and less prepared in English, social sciences and the humanities,” said Couture. “We have a team of more than 20 UNL faculty and staff working to make the programs between the universities as seamless as possible.”

Overall, Couture said the relationships will benefit all universities involved.

“China has a tremendous need to educate its young people,” Couture said. “Only one-third of Chinese students graduating from high school have the opportunity to go to college because there are not enough institutions to serve them.”

An influx in Chinese students may help fend off trends in the UNL student body.

“UNL and the entire NU system faces a possible loss of enrollment due to decreasing high school populations in the next five years,” said Couture. “We can help China educate young people by bringing them to UNL and address our potential loss of enrollment at the same time.

“Plus, this exchange creates a campus environment that exposes Nebraska students to an international population.”

One of the final items on agenda of the trip to China was Perlman’s table tennis match with Zheng.

Arriving at the gymnasium, Perlman was given an official “Butterfly” brand table tennis outfit. He warmed up against two Chinese women students.

“Those students made me feel like the match would be embarrassing,” Perlman said. “President Zheng is an accomplished player and he handily won game one.”

With the UNL contingent – including Paul serving as the official scorekeeper – cheering “Go Big Red,” Perlman battled back to take the second game.

The deciding game in the best-of-three match went to Zheng, who fended off Perlman 15-13.

“He won the match. I avoided major embarrassment. And, we both forged a more personal relationship with each other,” Perlman said.

Perlman was then challenged by Xi’an Jiaotong University’s chairman of the board (a Communist Party official who outranks the president and oversees the university).

“Discretion might have suggested I let him win,” Perlman said. “I threw caution to the winds, played my best and beat him.”

The contest prompted Zheng to suggest that when his contingent returns to UNL, maybe they could set up a soccer challenge between university officials.

“In that eventuality, we have initiated mandatory early morning calisthenics for the entire senior staff in Canfield,” Perlman joked.

— Story by Troy Fedderson, University Communications

China Tour 2008
• Oct. 5-7
Flight to Beijing/Hangzhou, China
• Oct. 8-10
Visit delegations from Zhejiang University and Zhejiang University City College (Hangzhou, China)
• Oct. 11-13
Yangtze River cruise to Three Gorges Dam (paid for by the individuals on the tour).
• Oct. 13-16
Visit with delegations from Xi’an Jiaotong University and Xi’an Jiaotong City College
• Oct. 16-18
Return to Lincoln

UNL contingent

UNL administrators who went to China on the Oct. 5 to 18 trip include:

• Harvey Perlman, chancellor
• Prem Paul, vice chancellor for research
• Barbara Couture, senior vice chancellor for academic affairs
• David Lou, director, UNL Confucius Institute
• Don Wilhite, director, School of Natural Resources
• Namas Chandra, professor, engineering mechanics
• Marjorie Lou, professor, veterinary and biomedical sciences
• Larry Rilett, professor, civil engineering
• David Sellmyer, professor, physics and astronomy

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave Comment