Last month, I made my second trip to China at the invitation of the Hanban/Confucius Institute Headquarters (an affiliate of the Chinese Ministry of Education) to report on the strategic international partnership between IUPUI and Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou.
SYSU has some 36,000 students in 23 schools and colleges and offers courses across 17 disciplines, including schools in medicine, dentistry, law, and business. It’s very similar to IUPUI in many ways. Three years ago, SYSU’s then-President Huang Daren and I signed a Memorandum of Strategic Alliance, which launched a rapid growth in our relationship.
Our relationship with SYSU developed in conjunction with our being selected in 2007 to house a prestigious Confucius Institute at IUPUI, one of some 400 institutes now established in more than 100 countries. More than 2,000 attended the 2012 Confucius Institute conference in Beijing, including host university presidents and their Chinese counterparts.
At the President’s Forum, I described how virtually every IUPUI school, as well as a significant number of other senior leaders, have interacted with SYSU over the course of our partnership, which is strengthened by the Confucius Institute structure. Unlike many other Confucius Institutes, our focus is broader than language and cultural training. The director of the Confucius Institute of Indianapolis is IU Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology Zao C. “Joe” Xu, M.D., Ph.D., who is a graduate of the Sun Yat-sen University of Medical Sciences.
It was gratifying to illustrate our progress in these milestones:
- 2010 – Our Confucius Institute cosponsored the 2nd China Higher Medical Education Management Conference in Guangzhou.
- 2011 – The Sun Yat-sen University Alumni Association (Midwest Chapter) was established with SYSU alumnus Joe Xu as inaugural director.
- 2012 – The Confucius Institute and the IUPUI Center for Teaching and Learning hosted a 37–member SYSU delegation for two weeks’ stay.
The strategic alliance has resulted in an array of collaborations, including:
- For IUPUI and SYSU medical students, study abroad program exchanges, clinical rotations, and other education and research collaborations. In addition to first-year medical students visiting SYSU during a summer camp, fourth-year medical students do clinical electives at SYSU, while eighth-year SYSU students do electives here.
- IU’s Nobel Prize Winner in Economics, the late Elinor Ostrom, visited SYSU for the grand opening in July 2011 of SYSU’s Institute for Civil Society, the development of which was in collaboration with our Center on Philanthropy.
- Nine 2+2 or dual IUPUI/SYSU degree programs are under way in such fields as business, engineering, computer science, and informatics.
- Education majors at IUPUI are offered an 8-week student teaching experience in Guangzhou, supervised by faculty from SYSU.
Even more impressively, three days of meetings with the president and vice presidents of Sun Yat-sen University moved our partnership forward with plans to establish a cooperative committee, chaired by President Ningsheng Xu and me, to each year review progress and set goals, further expand our partnership between our new School of Philanthropy and the Center for Civil Society, jointly provide student advising and career services to SYSU dual-degree students, and continue our support for SYSU’s establishing a teaching and learning center.
In addition to working meetings at SYSU and the conference in Beijing, I was fortunate to speak to SYSU students on the value of international study. Professor Sandra Petronio spoke to medical students on privacy dilemmas. One of the brightest moments of the trip was lunch with IUPUI students Grant J. Michel and Khadijah M. Zakaeifar, international study majors in liberal arts, and seeing how students are benefiting from the experience.
Our progress illustrates the conclusion of the Vice Minister of Education Hao Ping that the “development experience of the past eight years has proven that a Confucius Institute could only flourish and expand if it could adapt to the needs of its host university and community and fully play out its role as a comprehensive cultural exchange platform.”
The depth and breadth of the IUPUI/SYSU partnership could well serve as a model for other Confucius Institutes and other universities that wish to broaden their impact.