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WCU Extends Partnership with China's Guizhou University

Some of the University's longest-running international programs build upon relationships with Guizhou University in China.

On Dec. 5, Guizhou University Vice President Wu Cinan and professor Huang Zhenyu met with WCU President Greg Weisenstein, Peter Loedel, director of WCU's Center for International Programs (CIP), and WCU mathematics professor Lin Tan, who helped facilitate and provided interpretation. President Weisenstein and Vice President Wu signed a memorandum of understanding that extends a partnership between the two universities for the next three years, and paves the way for additional exchanges and collaborations.

One of the purposes of the delegation's visit was to reinvigorate faculty and student exchanges between the two institutions in 2015.

Collaborating with Guizhou University's new leadership and administration, Loedel explains, "We are planning a faculty/student exchange with Guizhou in 2015, then hosting 10 to 12 Guizhou University students here for Summer 1 and 2, 2015."

Other key outcomes of the meetings included "discussion of a 3 +1 type partnership that would bring Guizhou students to WCU for their final year of study with the hope of moving them into our graduate programs; and the development of a STEM committee of faculty, spearheaded by WCU astronomy professor Marc Gagne, to look into research partnerships with Guizhou."

These plans are part of CIP's development of "a sustained, long-term strategy for attracting international students," says Loedel. "For China, we are employing an interconnected strategy of outreach: attract students; establish faculty/students exchanges; open doors for faculty-led programs abroad. We will create additional high-impact learning experiences."

Loedel and WCU Provost Linda Lamwers traveled to China at the end of October with other institutions in the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) to explore the changes in higher education there, in particular, institutional partnerships. He notes that many of those partnerships have been STEM-focused, as well as teaching and pedagogy, and are now covering social sciences, the arts and humanities as well.

Alongside representatives from universities from across the globe, Loedel and Lamwers presented their case for studying at WCU directly to Chinese students at expos in Beijing and Shanghai hosted by China Education Association for International Exchange. More than 45,000 Chinese students attended the four-city expos.

WCU was also represented by FriendlyPA, which was in China to market Pennsylvania's higher education institutions to Chinese students. An initiative of the Pittsburgh-based Idea Foundry, FriendlyPA is designed to help brand the state as a destination for quality education in the United States. Loedel calls the consortium "a friendly intermediary. Idea Foundry will provide West Chester University a strong marketing presence in China that will allow Chinese students to learn more about the excellent educational opportunities at WCU."

Another aspect of WCU's trip to China was to augment direct university to university outreach, for example, with the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, which Loedel notes offers a high quality education and is especially strong in the social sciences.

This kind of outreach takes careful planning, he says. "We target first and second year students so we can get them thinking and planning to study abroad."

Why are we focusing on China at this time? Loedel notes that with their proportionate economic growth, "the Chinese have significant disposable income. China is an important and critically strategic country. It is very important to learn more about this country, its culture and its people."