More and more American universities are displaying a growing interest in China. They mostly hope to enroll more well-educated Chinese students and in doing so, gain more international prestige. In addition to that, they are now attaching more importance to academic and cultural exchange in order to draw both nations’ educational systems closer together.
“China is becoming very important in the world and we would like for many of our students to have Chinese experiences,” said Michael A. Wartell, Chancellor of Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW), during his latest tour of China.
“I think students cannot be well educated without knowing the different cultural backgrounds of different countries,” he said.
Starting two years ago, IPFW professors have gradually begun to set up relations with Chinese universities and organizations and started to develop several academic exchange programs such as the 2+2 or 3+1 college plans for a Bachelor’s degree, that allow students to study in both countries. Similar to other overseas universities, IPFW’s tour includes visiting places like Beijing, Hebei, Sichuan and Jiangsu, to discuss potential cooperation with local universities and organizations.
“It is about reputation, but we also focus on what the Chinese need and hence select universities that we can really help,” said Wartell. “And we are universities, so we should do something more and better than just business.”
The university has signed an agreement with Chengdu Panda Research Base and they will work together on how to reintroduce pandas born in captivity, into the wild. “Have you ever held a panda on your leg? It’s incredible.” Wartell said.
“One of our professors, who specializes in animal behavior, will go to Chengdu accompanied by two graduate students who have the expertise to help local staff in dealing with the pandas.”
Over the academic year of 2010-2011, Chinese student enrollment in the US rose to 157,558, making China the leading country in sending its students over to the United States, according to China Daily. The massive number of Chinese students has presented China with a great opportunity to export its culture, though more work still remains to be done.
“Chinese students are very committed to their studies and work hard, which in turn makes them great role models for our students. By sharing their culture and beliefs, it helps our students become more culturally aware,” said Wartell.
He admitted that the average American doesn’t have a real notion of China. “Americans are crazy about sports and careless about politics and economy. So when Yao Ming came to the U.S., that was really big,” Wartell jokingly said about the China image issue. “That’s why we need to learn more about each other and cooperation will bring us mutual benefits,” he said.
The bridge built by and between the US and the Chinese universities is probably one of the best ways to introduce each other’s culture to one another. “Nowadays we celebrate the Chinese New Year on our campus,” Wartell said. Indiana University and Purdue University opened up the combined campus of IPFW in 1964. It’s famous for its courses including engineering, IT, biology and music.
“IPFW has about 350 faculties, 30 of which have an Asian background and the city also boasts a large number of American-born Chinese, therefore they have the advantage to take in the Chinese students,” the Chancellor said.