UNIVERSITY EXCHANGE PROGRAM BRINGS CHINESE EDUCATORS TO BLUFFTON
In recent years, Bluffton University students—both undergraduates and graduate students in business—have traveled to China seven times for short-term study.
Now, through July 18, Bluffton is the host, welcoming 16 faculty members and administrators from China West Normal University for a training institute exposing the visitors to higher education in the United States.
China West Normal, which enrolls more than 30,000 students, is located in the city of Nanchong—a primary destination of Bluffton’s undergraduate cross-cultural experience in China. During the most recent Bluffton visit, in spring 2011, the group’s leader, Dr. Hans Houshower, met with representatives of several universities and staff of Mennonite Partners in China about the possibility of expanding collaboration.
"Out of those conversations came this idea, as a starting point, to develop a 10-day introduction to American higher education—and more specifically, how we deliver it at Bluffton—and to host these representatives from China West," said Houshower, Bluffton’s vice president for advancement.
He called the Chinese educators’ visit "the first step of a longer-term relationship between Bluffton and China West Normal in which we look forward to collaborating in a number of ways," including exchanges of faculty and student scholars. He noted, for example, the possibility of four to six Chinese faculty members spending a semester at Bluffton, auditing classes and teaching the Chinese language.
The all-male delegation—including two interpreters—from China West Normal arrived on the Bluffton campus on July 8. The next morning, the group heard the first of many scheduled presentations by Bluffton faculty and staff. During the overview of university operations by President James Harder and four vice presidents, several of the Chinese deans and directors asked questions about such topics as tuition, curriculum and the role of the U.S. Department of Education at Bluffton.
From the visitors’ perspective, the exchange program’s purpose is "friendly cooperation between the two universities, and the opportunity for us to see and learn about the operation of higher education in the United States," said Zhou Yong, the delegation leader and director of China West Normal’s Graduate Student Office. His university "hopes to broaden future cooperation" with Bluffton, he continued, saying "we would be more than willing" to welcome university representatives to the China West Normal campus.
While in the area, the Chinese educators are also spending parts of two days at a larger public university (Bowling Green) and a community college (Rhodes State), as well as taking a few cultural trips.
"Excursions to hear the Lima Symphony Orchestra, ride a canal boat in Grand Rapids, Ohio, and watch a Fort Wayne TinCaps baseball game will provide the delegates some exposure to culture and traditions of the region," noted Dr. Lynda Nyce, director of the training institute and of cross-cultural programs at Bluffton.
"Both Bluffton and China West Normal can gain from greater contact with peers in another country, and find additional ways to collaborate and continue to build relationships across cultures," added Nyce, also a professor of sociology and chair of the university’s Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
Bluffton public relations, 7/11/12