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Chinese delegates visit UMPI, discuss partnership opportunities

Wednesday, 08 February 2012

Officials with the University of Maine at Presque Isle hosted delegates from Siyuan University, located in in Xi'an, China, on Feb. 7 and 8 during a visit meant to strengthen connections and explore new partnerships between the two institutions.

Mr. Yanbo Zhou, Chairman of the Siyuan University Board, and Mr. Hualong Tong, Deputy Director of International Cooperation and Exchange at Siyuan University, spent two days at UMPI as part of a larger, 2-week visit to the United States to meet with universities and government officials and develop educational connections. In addition to their stop in Presque Isle, their itinerary is expected to include visits in Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Mexico.

According to UMPI Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Sonntag, the University's relationship with Siyuan has been developing over the course of the last two years. Right now, there are about a dozen Chinese students from Siyuan University completing their Bachelor's degrees at UMPI. The University's ties with this and other Chinese institutions have also helped to open doors to new learning opportunities for the local public school system: during their visit, Chinese delegates also met with SAD #1 officials to discuss collaborations with Presque Isle High School.

"Our relationship with Siyuan continues to grow in exciting ways," Sonntag said. "We have learned so much about the culture and educational experiences of the Chinese students, all of which inform us about our strengths and weaknesses and suggest paths to innovation and creativity in our future programming, activities, and other campus events. The students are a delight to have on campus and all reports indicate they are enjoying their experience with us."

Siyuan University currently serves about 18,000 students and it has a historical strength in engineering and technology.

Officials from the Chinese university met with UMPI's executive administration on Tuesday to discuss potential "3+1" or "2+2" degree program articulation agreements. Such programs would be designed collaboratively by faculty from UMPI and Siyuan and would allow Chinese students to complete two or three years of their degree program at Siyuan and the final one or two years at UMPI. In completing the program, students would earn both a Chinese and a U.S. degree.

According to the Chinese officials, the value of programs like this to Chinese students includes both the U.S. degree credential and the solid introduction to U.S. culture acquired in the one or two years of study in the U.S. Sonntag anticipates that such a program, once running, could bring cohorts of 20 to 30 students to campus, which would also provide for greater diversity and opportunities for cultural exchange on the UMPI campus.

"While many Chinese students have limited knowledge of Maine before their arrival, they generally know about New England and its historical strength in education," Sonntag said. "This knowledge leads them to colleges and universities in the region. It is my hope that this cooperation and others we develop will help to promote not only UMPI, but also Maine and the considerable strengths and opportunities found in The County. All the possible interconnections and opportunities are what keep this really exciting."