July 2, 2010
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For photo of Dr. Hannam in China CLICK HERE
Slippery Rock University pursues pact with Chinese schools
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - They were welcomed at the Chinese schools with signs as if they were celebrities. They dined on "wonderful food." And they laid the foundation for recruiting up to 15 Chinese undergraduates a year to Slippery Rock University and launching a "Chinese Educators' Academy" for teachers.
Susan Hannam, dean of SRU's College of Health, Environment and Science, recently led a recruitment trip to four high schools in China - Hongda, Haining, Jinling and Zhejiang. Two of the schools, Haining and Zhejiang, are interested in signing a letter of understanding with SRU that would, among other things, send some of their graduates to SRU for their college education.
Hannam also discussed the creation of an SRU Educators' Academy in which Chinese teachers would spend two weeks at SRU in the summer studying U.S. teaching methods.
"The schools told us that they would like their teachers to come and have a chance to practice the English language as we speak it, to learn a little more about the culture in the U.S. and to learn our teaching techniques," Hannam said.
Traveling to Nanjing, China with Hannam were Pam Frigot, director of international services; Jack Livingston, chair and associate professor of geography, geology and the environment; Jialing Wang, associate professor of geology, geology and the environment; and Hongbo Zhou, assistant professor of computer science. Zhou and Wang are from China.
"When we went to the schools, we were welcomed at all four of them with banners. We were big deals arriving there," Hannam said. "That was a surprise to me."
Hannam said the schools hope to sign letters of understanding in October so that SRU could begin enrolling Chinese students next July. "We'd like to get 10 to 15 students a year," she said. "In addition, we would host the educators' academy, and their government would pay to send their teachers here. I am very excited about bringing our people together."
SRU has 86 international students, including three from China, enrolled but has never had an articulation agreement with a Chinese high school. SRU has a partnership with a Japanese high school, Jissen Joship Gakuen, an all-girls school in Tokyo.
Hannam said the Chinese schools could send students anywhere in the world but have some preference for the United States. The SRU educators emphasized the computer science and geography, geology and environment curriculums because Chinese faculty suggested these were areas that would interest Chinese students. The team also made it clear that all other programs at SRU would be open to their students. SRU educators met with Chinese high school and education administrators as well as an educational consultant.
"I found them very open and very much wanting to hear what we had to offer at SRU," Hannam said. "Their spokesperson at each of the schools would tell the history of their institution through an interpreter. Then I would talk about Slippery Rock University. This would not just be an exchange program. Students would come as freshmen and stay for the entire four years."
The education agreement could produce a professor exchange as well. Hannam said they talked about an SRU professor - perhaps Livingston - teaching a course in China in the summer and taking a few SRU students as a way of prepping the Chinese high school students for their transition to SRU.
Frigot said many American universities recruit students from China but not many take such a focused academic approach.
"Because of the sheer size of the Chinese population and their robust economy, many universities worldwide are looking there to boost their international student enrollments," Frigot said. "More often than not, they cast a wide net hoping for a short-term gain. SRU is taking a very focused, long-term and sustainable approach by partnering with only a couple of secondary schools and focusing initially on a few high-demand majors."
American-born SRU students would benefit from the presence of Chinese peers, especially those in the University's Asian studies minor.
"Hopefully, our students will get to know these students and start to connect with them," Hannam said. "We have quite a cohort of students here who really are western Pennsylvania oriented. There is no judgment on this. They can be successful in western Pennsylvania, and further enhance this if they have their finger on the pulse of what is going on around the world. The world is getting a lot smaller, so anything we can do increase the cultural diversity on this campus is a win-win."
The trip to China was an unforgettable cultural experience as well. The group flew from Pittsburgh to Chicago, then 17 hours to Shanghai. They drove three hours from Shanghai to Nanjing, passing farms and dense housing plans.
"You could drop Pittsburgh in the middle of Shanghai and not even know that anything happened. It's a huge, huge city," she said. "Out in the country, we saw everything from poverty to poshness. We saw these big homes - huge homes that the whole family lived in, all the generations."
The biggest surprise, she said, were how lit up the cities were all night long. "There were bright, glittering lights on all the high rises and other buildings. That surprised me. The cities were incredibly clean. They sweep the streets during the day, so the cities are very pristine."
They stayed in hotels and took their meals in local restaurants. "We wanted to go where typical Chinese go," Hannam said. "They have wonderful food. It's not like American Chinese food. It is very healthy with lots of greens and fresh fish. There is very little fat."
Hannam recalled a meal that brought new meaning to the concept of fresh food. "We had one meal where we ordered fish," she said. "And the waiter said, 'This will take a little longer, we have to go catch it.' Sure enough, a worker left, and he came back with a plastic bag with the fish and asked us if it was OK. It was fresh and delicious."
Between Shanghia and Nanjing, they saw some of the silk manufacturing cities along China's "silk routes." This is a network of trade routes across Asia that connects Asia with the Mediterranean world, Africa and Europe. "That was really something to watch that whole silk-making process," she said.
The group also visited a Buddhist temple and heard school children perform on traditional instruments.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.