University opens branch in Beijing

The U’s first international office hopes to attract talent to the school.

by Frank

The University of Minnesota unveiled its first international branch late last month with a new office in Beijing. The University hopes the office will attract more international students from China as well as build a connection with the growing number of University alumni that live in China. Since the first Chinese students enrolled at the University in 1914, there have been more than 8,000 Chinese graduates of the University. As China-U.S. relations continue to improve, more international students coming to study at the University are from China. The University has the largest Chinese student body in North America, with around 1,300 Chinese students and scholars at the University annually. The China Center at the University has acted as a bridge between the University and China since 1979. The center conducts interviews to try to attract the academic elite. The University ran a Summer Chinese Program at Nankai University, a prominent Chinese university in Tianjin for 23 years. In 1999, the Carlson School of Management helped establish an Executive MBA program in China that was authorized by the Chinese governmentâÄôs Ministry of Education. The University is not alone in Minnesota in experiencing the influence of China in recent years. A handful of Chinese schools have popped up around the Twin Cities in the past decade that educate children of Chinese immigrants in Mandarin Chinese. In Minneapolis, Yinghua Academy, the first public charter Chinese immersion school in the Midwest, educates Kindergarten to eighth-grade children in subjects such as math and history, all in Mandarin. Only 50 percent of the schoolâÄôs almost 300 students are Chinese-Americans, a number that was once 70 percent. In 2000, only 5,000 students were learning Mandarin in the United States. Now that number is close to 60,000. Several public schools are also considering adding Mandarin to the list of languages that would be taught along with French, German and Spanish. As the two cultures become more intertwined, Min Li, a professor at Carlson, said at a conference this week that there are still many communication issues that need to be worked out between the Chinese and Americans, especially in the work environment. âÄúThe Americans and the Chinese have different values, and they interpret the same message in fundamentally different ways,âÄù Li said. For first-year graduate students Calvin Wang and Wenson Sun, the difference between the two cultures has not had much of an effect on them because of the large Chinese student body on campus. âÄúWe are able to keep many of the same traditions we had in China here,âÄù Wang said. âÄúInteraction with Americans is very limited for us.âÄù Sun and Wang both were accepted into numerous schools, including several in New York, where the overall Chinese population is greater, but the academics and lower tuition attracted them here. âÄúOf the top 100 universities in the world, there are no Chinese schools on the list,âÄù Wang said, explaining why some of ChinaâÄôs top academic talent is flocking to America for their masterâÄôs or doctoral degrees. Both students plan to eventually return to China with their degrees. This is often the same case for many other Chinese international students, Sun and Wang said. âÄúSome [Chinese international] students here have goals of teaching at the university level in America,âÄù Sun said. With students like Sun and Wang, the China Center hopes to continue to attract top academic talent from China while also opening up more opportunities for University students here to study in China.