Wayne State University

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Wayne State visit to China bolsters academic programs, cultural understanding

January 28, 2013

Wayne State University reaffirmed its commitment to economic, educational and cultural engagement with China in November with a delegation’s visit to several Chinese universities.

Ahmad Ezzeddine, associate vice president for educational outreach and international programs at Wayne State, Farshad Fotouhi, dean of the WSU College of Engineering, and Dr. Cheng-Zhong Xu, interim chair of electrical and computer engineering,met with students and faculty at four universities with which Wayne State maintains agreements facilitating exchange of students. These universities were Hangzhou Dianzi University; Zhejiang University of Technology, also in Hangzhou; Soochow University in Suzhou; and South China University of Technology (SCUT) in Guangzhou. The visit was scheduled around SCUT’s 60th anniversary celebration, at which Ezzeddine was invited to speak on the role of higher education in fostering local and international engagement.

The visit achieved the important goal of strengthening Wayne State’ relationships with Chinese partners in higher education and exploring opportunities for further engagement. The College of Engineering, specifically, added to a growing list of 3+2 program partnerships with Chinese universities, signing new agreements with ZJUT and Soochow during the trip. Additionally, as a result of the trip, Fotouhi will soon announce a new initiative aimed at giving engineering and computer science students more opportunities to study abroad.

China is an economic world power, and familiarity with Chinese culture and business models is a critical component of higher education in America, said Ezzeddine, noting that President Obama in 2009 pledged to send 100,000 students to China over the subsequent four years. Speaking before an audience at SCUT’s 60th anniversary celebration, Ezzeddine noted that “academic, cultural and economic exchanges with China will be some of the most worthwhile in this exciting era of global collaboration.”

Ezzeddine also spoke about the large number Michigan companies that are successful investors in China, Michigan governor Rick Snyder’s focus on encouraging Chinese investment in Michigan, and the demand for teachers to teach Mandarin to business leaders in Metropolitan Detroit. Helping to meet this demand is the Confucius Institute, a partnership between Wayne State and Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, which helps the Wayne State College of Education recruit and train teachers who become certified to teach Chinese as a second language in Southeast Michigan. The Institute also helps Michigan high school students study in China and has partnered with Tech Town, Wayne State’s research park and incubator, to launch the Chinese Business Club, which helps Chinese companies locate to Detroit. Finally, Wayne State partners with Chinese universities and others around the world through Partners for the Advancement of Engineering Education, which provides millions of dollars of software and hardware from corporate donors to help prepare designers, engineers and analysts with skills to excel in a high tech economy.

Wayne State’s presence in China, which has historically sent more students to Wayne State than any other country, is part of the university’s larger commitment to international outreach, Ezzeddine said.

“Global engagement is no longer a luxury or a nice thing to do,” he noted. “It’s an imperative. We need to integrate it into the fabric of all we do as a university. We see this in the College of Engineering’s decision to make a global perspective one of its five pillars of a Wayne State engineering and computer science education. Wayne State is constantly seeking to expand the breadth and flexibility of programs through which it can send students abroad so that students from all academic disciplines can have an international experience.”

Meanwhile, said Ezzeddine, Wayne State gets great satisfaction serving the Chinese student body.

“We are always impressed by the focus and drive that Chinese students exhibit,” he noted. “These students come hungry to learn, and they master the knowledge they need about American systems and culture. We want to do everything we can to give our students the same insights about China.”