On the 88th floor of the headquarters of Shanghai television, Drs. Jeffrey Grilliot, Heinz Bulmahn and Rodney Rogers (third, fourth and fifth from left) get a view of the city with BGSU alumnus Ma Xinle and Yuankai Chen, a lead manager at the station and former WBGU-PBS visiting scholar.

BGSU strengthening connections, forging new ones in China

While many U.S. colleges and universities are rushing to China in the wake of the tremendous economic boom that is making headlines worldwide, “Bowling Green has been there since 1985,” points out Dr. Rodney Rogers, dean of the College of Business Administration.

Having those connections, both with Chinese universities and the many successful BGSU alumni from China, positions the University well to provide further study and research opportunities for students and faculty, according to Jeffrey Grilliot, director of global initiatives. (See related story.)

BGSU wants to expand its long association with Xi’an International Studies University and Shandong University as well as create new partnerships with other universities. It has entered into a collaborative agreement with the nonprofit SEED (Strategic Education and Economic Development) Corp., along with the University of Toledo, the Toledo Port Authority and area businesses, to further its educational and economic development mission.

"Economic development at BGSU must have an international focus. China is the most rapidly growing economy in the world and, thus, we want to bolster our actions and activities there,” said Dr. James Michael Smith, vice president for economic development and regional growth. “Student exchanges, faculty exchanges, language development opportunities and the actual creation of business partnerships with Chinese organizations are all in the best interest of Bowling Green State University. I certainly look forward to seeing these initiatives grow and develop. I also look forward to upcoming trade visits to China that will include involvement by myself and others actively engaged with economic development here at BGSU."

As part of an initial group visit earlier this month, Rogers traveled to China with Grilliot, representing Continuing and Extended Education (CEE), and Dr. Heinz Bulmahn, dean of the Graduate College and vice provost for research, along with other SEED members. Based upon what they learned, they will make initial recommendations to Smith for possible avenues BGSU could follow.

Though all three BGSU representatives had been to China before, they reported being amazed at the amount of development and growth that has taken place in the past few years. “It takes your breath away, the investments that are being made,” Rogers said. “It’s a stunning, growing economy and we need to give students and faculty a better sense of what is happening there.”

China has become a land of great opportunity not only for business but for higher education as well, with benefits for BGSU extending to faculty, students and the University itself. “It’s a country on the move,” Bulmahn said.

Addressing the Chinese need for education
The rapid construction of new campuses and universities and the recent surge in the middle class—now estimated at 150-200 million people and expected to double within five years—have created a great demand for faculty and curriculum in China, Rogers said. In addition, the group learned, the Chinese still value an American degree.

“There are many opportunities for us to provide education,” Rogers said. “There is an emerging middle class that want their children to be well educated.” Helping the Chinese staff their new universities and develop academic programs could be mutually beneficial, he added, in that it would bring resources to BGSU that could be reinvested here.

In addition to the English language instruction BGSU provides at Xi’an, the Center for International Programs in CEE is building an Intensive English Program in response to contacts in China. Distance education opportunities shared between Shandong and Xi’an in crucial majors such as education and travel and tourism are being explored by IDEAL (Interactive Distance Education for All Learners) staff.

BGSU has a number of Chinese faculty, Rogers said, noting for example that the business college has one or more Chinese-speaking faculty members in all but one department. Before the SEED trip to China, current BGSU faculty from the Shanghai region were contacted to develop an educational plan for Shanghai. The Bowling Green delegation also met with representatives from Shanghai Normal University and the University of Shanghai to discuss establishing an exchange with the German, Russian and East Asian languages department.

Creating globally competitive students
With China becoming a major force in the world economy, it is imperative that U.S. students comprehend that “this is what they will be competing against,” Rogers said. “I tell my incoming freshmen that they must understand the global economy because they must compete with people from China, other areas in Southeast Asia, South America and eventually probably Africa.”

“It’s important for our students today to go not only to Europe but to China,” Bulmahn said. “We need to position our students to be able to take advantage of these opportunities.”

In addition to traditional, semester-long study-abroad programs, the business college is looking at intensive “mini-trips” as a way to familiarize students with Chinese culture, Rogers said.

Faculty connect with faculty
China’s emerging economy presents many interesting research projects for faculty, Rogers said, and BGSU would like to foster faculty exchange programs.

“Our involvement before has been mainly instructional, but it is moving now toward research,” Bulmahn said. “These must be initiated by faculty and then they can explore where there might be intersections of interest.”

Rogers agreed, saying, “The faculty must get to know one another and build relationships of trust and respect in order for these to be successful.”

Building on existing relationships
Reconnecting with its existing partners, the BGSU group met with leaders at Xi’an University in southern China, with which Bowling Green has had exchanges since 1985, and Shandong University in the east, which began partnering with BGSU in 1993.

Because of the great need for speakers of English in China today, BGSU has been exchanging faculty and students with Xi’an. Last year, Dr. Ellen Williams, intervention services, taught the first graduate class by a foreign faculty member at Xi’an, which has recently built an entire new campus on the outskirts of the city. Bulmahn and Grilliot visited the university to discuss expanding the collaboration.

The partnership with Shandong, one of the premier research institutions in China, has been primarily based on the sciences, especially photochemistry. With six campuses and more than 50,000 students, Shandong is in the top 10-15 institutions in China and is a leader in alternative energies. Last year, Barbara Toth, coordinator of the Writing Center in the Office of Academic Enhancement, helped set up the first writing lab at Shandong. BGSU now has a visiting scholar from Shandong, Shen Xiang, who is its director of distance education. Shandong has offered to help BGSU become a trilateral partner with it and the Chinese equivalent of the National Science Foundation. Rogers also met with representatives of the business and economics departments to discuss exchanging research agendas.

Making new contacts
Some of the other universities visited by Rogers to explore possible connections for the College of Business Administration include East China University of Science and Technology, Northwest Polytechnic University and Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.

July 30, 2007