Business college forging ties with China

BOWLING GREEN, O.—New doors are opening for Bowling Green State University business students and faculty in China.

Dr. Rodney Rogers, dean of BGSU’s College of Business Administration, and Dr. Mark Bennion, coordinator of the college’s study abroad programs, are leaving this weekend for a week in China, where they will sign agreements creating exchange and study abroad programs with two universities.

BGSU will have exchange programs with Hong Kong Baptist University and the University of Macau. In addition, under a study abroad agreement, up to 15 Bowling Green students will be integrated into classes at Hong Kong Baptist and Macau each spring semester, beginning next year. Immersing students into the classroom in this way is very unusual in most exchange programs, Rogers said.

The first exchange students could go to China as soon as next fall, said Bennion, noting that the agreements mean BGSU “will have the largest number of students studying in Hong Kong and Macau of any Ohio school.” And they won’t have to learn a new language, he added, pointing out that teaching in English is a unique quality of universities in Hong Kong and Macau, both of which are classified as special administrative regions of China.

“Our students will have exposure to China and Chinese culture without the necessity of learning Chinese,” said Bennion, also an associate professor of marketing at Bowling Green.

Meanwhile, all College of Business Administration faculty members will be eligible to apply for the faculty exchange program. The program will also bring Chinese faculty to Bowling Green to teach undergraduate and graduate courses similar to those they have taught in Hong Kong and Macau.

While the connections that produced the agreements were made in familiar ways—networking through colleagues—the locales for the resulting programs promise to present an eye-opening experience for participating students, Bennion said.

“It’s really an exciting place to be,” he said of Hong Kong. Macau, he continued, is built around the tourism and hospitality industries, with more visitors than Las Vegas each year.

The agreements are timely in terms of the United States’ growing business relationship with China. Total trade between the two nations grew from $33 billion in 1992 to more than $386 billion in 2007, according to U.S. State Department figures quoted by Bennion. The U.S. is China’s second-largest trading partner, while China is now the third-largest trading partner for the U.S., behind Canada and Mexico. American exports to China have been growing more rapidly than to any other market—up 18 percent in 2007 after increases of 21 percent and 32 percent in 2005 and 2006, respectively. A 12 percent growth in imports from China last year brought the U.S. trade deficit with its Asian partner to $256 billion.

The U.S. is also the sixth-largest foreign investor in China, with cumulative investment estimated at $57 billion through the end of 2007.

The new exchange and study abroad programs are not connected with BGSU’s similar program begun about 25 years ago with China’s Xi'an International Studies University. But for students—who can get help with the cost of going to China through Bowling Green’s Center for International Programs—some of the potential benefits are the same.

“Study abroad programs that immerse students into the regional and local cultures provide incredible opportunities for personal and professional growth,” Rogers said. “While the U.S. is currently a business global leader, to maintain our leadership position we need to ensure that we are graduating students who understand the nuances of the global marketplace. Many students return from a semester abroad saying ‘This experience changed my perspective and changed my life.’”

Then there are the benefits for business students in particular.

“Professionally, these students are more prepared to face a global economy in which the United States plays a leading role,” Bennion said, pointing out that the average business student is unaware that the U.S. is the world’s leading exporting, as well as importing, country. “The students will become familiar with the world of international business; in classes at the host university they will gain perspective on the U.S. as a customer and trading partner.”

The experience also increases their marketability, he added. “These students distinguish themselves as being adaptable—placing themselves outside their comfort level and succeeding. They will have proved they can live and work in a multicultural environment and accomplish their objectives.”

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(Posted May 15, 2008 )