The U’s expanding global vision

Just before Thanksgiving, I led a delegation of educators to China as part of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s trade mission. But I got a special welcome: When I arrived in Beijing, a group of University alumni met me at the airport with a large banner and armloads of

Just before Thanksgiving, I led a delegation of educators to China as part of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s trade mission. But I got a special welcome: When I arrived in Beijing, a group of University alumni met me at the airport with a large banner and armloads of flowers.

“Go Gophers!” they shouted. “We’re proud to be part of the U of M family,” said Wenjie Fu, president of the Beijing alumni association chapter. The trip got better: The Shanghai alumni group met us for breakfast. We opened an alumni chapter in Guangzhou, with alumni from all over China in attendance. Everywhere I went, I was touched by our Chinese alumni’s pride in their alma mater and thrilled by the energy they put into sustaining a strong relationship with the University.

In fact, the University has a long history with China beginning with the enrollment of our first Chinese students in 1914. Today, we have some 8,000 alumni in China, among the most of any U.S. university. That speaks to the University’s strong tradition of internationalism: We have long served Minnesota by being an educational portal for people from all over the world. With that has come a vigorous exchange of knowledge that we now intend to expand. The governor’s education delegation included representatives from higher education, the K-12 public schools, private schools and education enterprises and even the Science Museum of Minnesota. We participated in this mission because we understand how critical it is that we continue to internationalize education in Minnesota and that we develop even stronger education partnerships with China.

Internationalization is a key element of our strategic positioning strategy to transform the University into one of the three best in the world. As president, I am committed to making the University a global leader in education and research and offering our students an education that prepares them to be full citizens of a world that transcends national borders.

What will increasing internationalization mean for the University? Already we have more than 4,500 international students and scholars from about 130 countries on our campuses. Our learning abroad center helps students choose between more than 250 programs in more than 60 countries. Our researchers are building collaborations with their counterparts across the globe.

The University is recognized as a national model for how to integrate international student services and learning abroad across the curriculum, and we have strong expertise and experience in a breadth of international issues and programs. We are doing well, but that isn’t enough. We must have a strong and coherent vision of the University that integrates a global dimension into our academic framewive the recommendations of a task force charged with developing this vision. The members of the task force were asked to develop a plan to stimulate cutting-edge international research, as well as teaching and public engagements with partners in other countries.

The task force was asked to develop strategies for building strategic partnerships with global universities and research institutions, to expand study abroad and international scholarly exchange and to internationalize the curriculum. We are developing educational programs in China. In 2001 the Carlson School of Management established the University’s first off-site executive Master of Business Administration program in China, which was recently ranked the No. 1 joint executive program in China. Since 2001, more than 140 Chinese students have graduated from the program. In 2006 the University’s Law School plans to offer a Master of Laws degree in Beijing with the China University of Political Science and Law. While I was in Hong Kong, we signed an agreement establishing the Asia branch of the University of Minnesota’s ISP program for health care administration. We have students studying in China through our learning abroad programs and ongoing scholarly exchanges and collaborations with Chinese researchers. In November a group of scientists from the University had a joint colloquium in Beijing on environment and renewable energy with scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. We have invited CAS to attend a second joint colloquium next fall, possibly in conjunction with the Second International Symposium on Nanotechnology and Occupational Health chaired by professor David Y.H. Pui.

We will need to build on our successes in China and across the globe to expand educational opportunities for our students and advance research to improve the lives and livelihoods of people everywhere. The University’s history of leadership in international education bodes well for our future as one of the three best public research universities in the world.

As Simon Wong, president of the University’s Hong Kong alumni chapter said as he looked at the huge crowd gathered to celebrate the new Guangzhou chapter: “I feel like I am on campus again, and I even miss the icy cold winter in Minnesota.” This is how we build a better world.

Bob Bruininks is the University president. Please send comments to [email protected]