Eastern horizons: Dal on the road in China (part one)

- March 15, 2013

Left: the delegation (from right: Chenxi Xu, Alain Boutet and Keith Taylor) meets with Dal engineering prof Jason Gu, who is a visiting research collaborator at Shandong University; right, the delegation chats with students in a join program between Dalhousie and Renmin University of China.
Left: the delegation (from right: Chenxi Xu, Alain Boutet and Keith Taylor) meets with Dal engineering prof Jason Gu, who is a visiting research collaborator at Shandong University; right, the delegation chats with students in a join program between Dalhousie and Renmin University of China.

Dalhousie’s relationship with China stretches back decades, and has grown significantly in recent years. Dal has more than a dozen active institutional cooperation agreements with universities in China. Close to 1,000 Chinese students attend Dalhousie, programs like the Department of Economics’ 2+2 agreement are strengthening academic connections, and research collaborations in fields such as oceans and engineering are expanding.

For the next two weeks, a delegation from Dalhousie is in China, working to strengthen this relationship, visting seven cities and ten institutions. Its members are writing about their experiences meeting students, researchers and university leaders.

Below are this week's posts, all written by Keith Taylor, associate vice-president academic at Dalhousie. You can follow along daily at the Eastern Horizons blog or on Today@Dal.

Day one - departure from China

Submitted by Keith Taylor

Halifax Stanfield International Airport, 8:00 a.m., March 9, 2013.

A small delegation from Dal is about to start on the first leg of a two week trip during which we will visit seven cities and ten institutions in China. We invite you to follow our journey as we work our way, roughly from north to south, down the eastern coast of that exciting country.

Our group consists of myself, Keith Taylor, associate vice-president academic; Alain Boutet, executive director international relations; and Chenxi Xu, grad student services and admissions clerk, Faculty of Graduate Studies. On March 14, Asa Kachan, assistant vice-president enrolment management and registrar, will join us for the remainder of the trip.

Dalhousie’s engagement with educational institutions in China goes back at least 30 years. In the 80s and 90s, we participated in a CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) project that built capacity in Xiamen University, which will be the last stop for us on this journey. In addition, individual faculty members, most notably ocean scientists, have long standing research collaborations with colleagues at the Ocean University of China, Nanjing University and other institutions along the eastern edge of the country.

In 2006, Sam Scully, then-vice-president academic at Dal, led a delegation to China with the purpose of building on these and other connections to establish a select number of meaningful partnerships. Many of the connections established during the 2006 tour grew into robust relationships that bring value to Dalhousie in a variety of ways. Dalhousie faculty members have increased opportunities to engage in collaborative research, delivery of workshops and even some short-term teaching. We have an improved flow of graduate students and significantly increased undergraduate enrolment from China. Moreover, our local undergraduates, at least from some areas of study, can now select a trusted institution for a study abroad experience in China. If you follow our blog, you will learn specifics of our relationship with each institution as we visit it.

Our plane is leaving so I must send this in for posting.

Day three - Discussing exchanges at Remin University and the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing

Submitted by Keith Taylor

March 11, 2013, Beijing.

Our relationships with the two universities we visited today differ in their nature. Renmin University of China is the leading university in the country with an emphasis on social sciences and humanities and one of the best institutions overall. For 10 years, they have been running a special program where they teach a basic first two years of an economics program to students who wish to complete their degrees at partner universities outside China. In 2008, Dalhousie became one of those partners.

Today, we met with the 17 students who intend on coming to Dalhousie this September. These students will spend two years in Halifax and graduate with a major in Economics. We took the opportunity to get to know these students a little and enjoyed hearing about their life plans as well as their leisure interests. Dr. Jenny Chen Ni hosted us for a delightful lunch at the campus restaurant before we left to spend the rest of the day with the University of International Business and Economics (UBIE).

With a more narrow focus than Renmin, UIBE concentrates on international themes of business, economics and law. They offer many of their programs in English and about 20% of their 15,000 students are from outside China. Because of the variety of courses available in English, Dalhousie established a student exchange program with UIBE which is available to Dalhousie students in Commerce, Political Science and Economics.

After a formal meeting with Vice-President Zhongxiu Zhao, we had a working meeting with Prof. Haiquan Xia, Director of the Department of International Relations where Prof. Xia suggested that the scope of the exchange program could be expanded. We also discussed short summer courses at length. Students from UIBE participated in the Summer Institute on The Science and Economics of Climate Change at Dalhousie last summer and Prof. Xia and his staff are promoting this opportunity for the coming summer.

Also, we were introduced to an intriguing method that UIBE has introduced to provide an international experience to those of their students who are not able to go abroad. This summer, almost 100 academics from UIBE’s partner universities will offer concentrated courses, for credit, at UIBE on a wide range of topics. Approximately 2,000 students will take at least one of these courses. UIBE is very interested in any Dalhousie faculty members who might propose a course for the summer of 2014. This will certainly be an interesting opportunity for our faculty members.

Day four: Embassy adventures and travel to Qingdao

Submitted by Keith Taylor

March 12, Beijing to Qingdao.

Today we had our first unplanned adventure. We had scheduled a 10 a.m. meeting at the Canadian Embassy with Ken Wong, Trade Commissioner for Education, but it was raining. Now that may not seem like a serious issue, but the demand for taxis goes up in Beijing when it rains and it took us an hour and twenty minutes to flag down a cab, with the help of the hotel staff. Arriving late at the Embassy, we encountered another problem. Because we would be leaving for the airport from the Embassy, we had our suitcases with us. The bigger bags would not fit through the scanning machine and the army of the People’s Republic of China feared that we may be Canadian spies bringing electronics to the Canadian staff. Ken had to come down with a letter from a higher official identifying us as VIPs. I guess VIP Canadians are trusted.

After briefing Ken and Calvin Zhang, also a trade commissioner, on the current state of Dalhousie’s activities in China and, in turn, receiving information on certain relevant changes in policy coming out of the recent Party Congress, we headed for the airport. This time we hailed a cab in under a minute.

I am writing this from the Sofia International Hotel in Qingdao, home of Tsingtao beer. The brewing industry was established here when this port was a small German colony. We were on our own for dinner and ate a simple, but delicious meal of eggplant, long bean, Chinese yam and shrimp. Pictured is the “menu,” a walk-in room where the raw ingredients for each dish are displayed for your selection.

Tomorrow, we have a series of activities at the Ocean University of China.

Day five: Meeting students and researchers at the Ocean University of China

Submitted by Keith Taylor

March 13, Qingdao

Today was spent at the Ocean University of China. For many years now, Dalhousie scientists have been collaborating with like-minded researchers at OUC, mostly in areas of ocean science. But OUC is strong not just in marine sciences, and a broadly based collaboration with Dalhousie is being worked out.

We spent the morning discussing the details of student and faculty exchange agreements, a study abroad program and joint research workshops that are planned for later this spring. Leading the discussion for OUC was Vice-President Zhang Jing, who is a fisheries scientist. We continued discussions at a working lunch, where we were joined by longtime friend, Dai Hua, Director of the International Office of OUC.

Later in the afternoon, we talked with 14 students and a faculty member who responded to a notice that representatives from Dalhousie were going to be on campus. It is clear that OUC is a place where Dal is very well known.

Each of these students, from disciplines such as physical oceanography, statistics, applied mathematics, marine ecology, and marine management, knew our strengths and wanted information on the potential for an exchange program or the opportunities for applying for PhD studies at Dal. The faculty member has government funding to spend a year at Dalhousie and was making a personal connection with us. The conversation continued over 90 minutes, with individuals reengaging time and again with more and more detailed questions.

Day six: Familiar faces and new opportunities at Shandong University

Submitted by Keith Taylor

March 14, Qingdao – Jinan.

Alain was pleasantly surprised to find a quality cappuccino at the Qingdao train station this morning. This made us all happy. After a smooth ride on a wonderful high-speed train, we were met at the Jinan station by Professor Jason Gu from Dalhousie’s Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering. Jason is visiting research collaborators at Shandong University. Actually, Jason’s projects have been the main basis of our relationship with this leading university of Shandong Province, but we are in the process of expanding the scope of our cooperation agreement. Shandong University occupies six different campuses with over 60,000 full-time and 40,000 part-time and distance students.

We had a fruitful discussion with Vice-President Hongxiang Lou, a professor of natural products chemistry, and Dr. Nan Zou, the Director of the Department of International Affairs, identifying areas of commonality in the two institutions. There was considerable interest in the enhancement of opportunities for international experiences for graduate students. They offer 47 of their master's programs fully in English, which makes it a lot easier for our graduate students to fruitfully spend time there.

Later in the afternoon, Alain, Chenxi and Jason went on a small tour of the main campus while Keith delivered a seminar talk in the School of Mathematics. We all joined up again in a wonderful museum devoted to local culture – a rich culture, as Confucius was born nearby. Chenxi agreed to treat our hosts to an impromptu concert on the guzheng, a Chinese plucked zither that happen to be set up in the museum (photo, left).

As I write this, Chenxi is at the local airport to meet Asa Kachan, assistant vice-president enrolment management and registrar. She will be with us for the rest of the journey and will start contributing to this blog.

Follow the team's travels

The China delegation will continue to update their travels on the Eastern Horizons blog all next week.


All comments require a name and email address. You may also choose to log-in using your preferred social network or register with Disqus, the software we use for our commenting system. Join the conversation, but keep it clean, stay on the topic and be brief. Read comments policy.

comments powered by Disqus