I’ve just returned from my first trip to China, where I visited Southwest University in Chongqing. Three years ago, the colleges of education at Chongqing and Michigan State began an academic partnership and exchange of graduate students and faculty. This year, nine Southwest graduate students and faculty members are studying and conducting research in our College of Education, and in May, we’ll be sending a group of our doctoral students (joined by students from the University of Washington) to China to study at Southwest and visit other cities in China. This study tour is part of the College of Education’s Fellowship for Enhancing Global Understanding Program. In addition to the visit to Southwest University, other groups of our doctoral students will be studying in Botswana, Cyprus, and Vietnam this spring.
While I had heard much about China from my colleagues here, experiencing it myself for the first time was an extraordinary experience. Chongqing is one of China’s four municipalities (along with Beijing, Shanghai, and Tainjin) directly controlled by the national government. It is 32,000 square miles with a population of 32 million. The vast majority of the population lives in the city portion of Chongqing; the outlying sections of the municipality include the famous Three Gorges Dam. Southwest University has about 50,000 students, or slightly larger than Michigan State. It was formed in 2005 through the merger of Southwest China Normal University and Southwest China Agriculture University, and the College of Education at Southwest is one of the premier teacher training institutions in the nation.
I visited Southwest with my COE colleague Barbara Markle, Assistant Dean for K-12 Outreach, and Dan Schultz, a consultant who works closely with our outreach office. Both Barbara and Dan have traveled many times to China, and were expert guides for my first visit. The purpose of our trip was to meet the Dean of the Faculty of Education at Southwest, Dr. Zhu Dequan (who like me has recently begun his tenure as dean), and to negotiate an extension of our partnership between the two universities*. Dr. Zhu and his colleagues were very gracious hosts, as witnessed by the numerous banners welcoming us (click on each picture for a larger image).
Dr. Zhu and his colleagues shared a number of meals with us, as well as took us on a cruise of the Yangtze River to see the lights on the buildings in the central city portion of Chongqing.
We had very fruitful discussions about ways to extend and strengthen the partnership between the institutions. We discussed a number of ideas of ways to improve the experience on both ends, and we will be exploring these in the coming months.
While in Chongqing, we had the opportunity to visit a middle/high school of approximately 2,000 students that has a relationship with Southwest (its English name is translated as High School Affiliated to Southwest University). Because of its connection to Southwest, this is considered a very prestigious school and attracts students from throughout the municipality, including some students from outlying areas who board at the school. In my next post, I’ll share more about our experience there.
[Updated 5/9/12] Southwest university posted on their website a couple of stories about our visit. Here is the story about our visit to the College of Education (English translation), and here is the story about our visit to Southwest’s Online College (English translation).
* The partnership between MSU and Southwest also includes students from the University of Washington and University of Delaware, but our college coordinates the program for the three universities.