CSUN’s China Institute focuses on cooperation

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CSUN’s China Institute will continue to provide a link between the American and Chinese governments, education systems and culture this year, as CSUN sends four scholars to China to study and takes in several Chinese faculty members.

The Institute has played a key role in organizing both educational and cultural activities and exchanges between the two countries. It represented CSUN when it signed memoranda of understanding with more than 40 public universities in China.

With a focus on friendship, understanding, exchange and collaboration between the United States and China, the Institute is a result of increasing interest and new affiliations in China in the 1970s, established at CSUN in 1982 under the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs.

The Institute’s membership includes hundreds of students, faculty, staff and members of the community who are committed to enhancing US-China relations. The Institute’s staff is made up of university employees who donate their time, as its day-to-day operating budget is minimal.

Justine Su, director of the China Institute and a coordinator for international programs in Graduate Studies, Research and International Programs, said CSUN was No. 1 among American universities in having recipients of Chinese government scholarships. CSUN students compete for the scholarships with other students around the world.

John Tian, a doctor from Guangzhou, China, arrived in California on Oct. 3. He had previously been in the United States four years ago for a short visit. Tian said his major field of study in China right now is image diagnoses reformation of hospital systems. He said he made contact with Su and the China Institute about a year ago.

“Justine Su helped me to come here – she helped many other Chinese scholars to come here too,” Tian said. “She is a very kind woman.”

Tian said he will be in the United States for about a year, and his mentor recommended some classes for him to take. He is living with another visiting scholar from Shanghai, China, but hopes to live with a host family so he can improve his English.

“I like the campus life. It makes me (think of) my high school life, a nice memory,” Tian said. “But I don’t like the classes, I mean the teaching mode – (is) very different for me. Maybe it’s based on different (cultural) background. Maybe I’ll be used to it soon.”

Su said there are currently four CSUN student scholars in China – two international business scholars in Shanghai and two theatre scholars in Beijing. She said the scholars are on a long-term study program that usually runs between six months and a year. All of the scholars’ expenses are paid through scholarships.

Su said that when CSUN students qualify for these scholarships, the Institute forwards recommendations to the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles.

She said the Chinese government is not directly affiliated with the Institute, but supports the exchange through grants and scholarships.

Jihong He, an associate professor of English at Tongji University in Shanghai, arrived in California on Sept. 28. He is one of the many visiting Chinese scholars who are here at CSUN through the China Institute.

“I have two mentors here at CSUN: Justine and Mingfang Li, who is a management professor here at CSUN,” He said.

He said she had previously been to the United States in 2001 with a tour group from China. She traveled with the group for two weeks and was an interpreter for the delegation. She is living off campus with a host family and will be staying at CSUN for around six months.

Su said the Theatre and Health Sciences departments are highly involved with the China Institute.

Peter Grego, chair of the Theatre Department, is pleased with his department’s involvement with international programs in countries like Mexico, Korea and China.

“(International relationships) are beneficial to both professors and students, academically and professionally,” Grego said.

Su said the Institute’s scholarship program has been around for about six years now. She said the CSUN student scholars are committed to at least a one-year program in any selected subject matter at an institution of higher learning in China.

Grego said this year two students from the Theatre Department were recipients of scholarships for a year to Beijing’s Central Academy of Dramatic Arts: Sean Hill and Patric McInnis. Hill and McInnis competed along with seven other CSUN students for an opportunity to go to China. After receiving the scholarships, both students spent the summer prior to their trip learning basic Chinese.

“Justine (from the China Institute) ended up sending both (entries) to China and let them decide which (applicant) to pick,” Grego said.

Grego said usually there is one scholar in Western countries that could be selected, but the Theatre Department is pleased to have two students selected.

He added that it was the first time two students from the same school and same department were both given the scholarship.

“It says a lot about the department and the university,” Grego said.

Grego intends to perform in China the next time he is given the opportunity. He said he is hoping to be invited again to perform either next year or in 2007. He is planning to bring a CSUN hip-hop production to Shanghai.

Grego said that he is fortunate to have connections and maintain relationships with colleagues in China. He said that recently a representative from the University of California at Davis called him and asked him about their connection in China.

Grego said Zhao Bingxiang, dean of film and television at Shanghai Normal University, is now a visiting scholar at CSUN. He said he previously met Zhao in December 2004.

“It depends on the faculty and their contact,” Su said. “Some faculty established long-term relationships with the visiting scholars.”

Louis Rubino, Health Sciences professor, returned from China last summer. Rubino had 12 students with him on the trip, which traveled to Guangzhou in the south part of China at the mouth of the Pearl River to explore China’s health care system.

“(We) learned about (the) Chinese health care system – we saw both the good and bad – (It’s the) same way when they (Chinese delegates) are here,” Rubino said.

Rubino said that along with Ellen McFadden, a now-retired faculty member, he is one of the founders of the Medical Management Exchange Program. He said the China Institute oversees the activities of the program, and that through the programs he has been able to help students get internships in Beijing.

“Originally, (we) signed (a) five-year memorandum and it’s almost up,” Rubino said. “I do want to re-sign the agreement (along with China Institute).”

Rubino said that he once taught a student from China who took a class with him about hospital administration.

At that time, the student was working for the Chinese government, and when she went back to China the student informed her leaders about the class she took and then later invited Rubino to visit China.

“China Institute being on campus introduced me to my colleagues – I have met my counterpart in China – Dr. Dong Hai Wei. He makes arrangements for me and I do the same for him when he is here,” Rubino said.

Rubino said Wei was once a Chinese delegate to CSUN who took one of his classes and later became involved with their program. He said that in his recent visit to China, Wei, who is affiliated with Guangzhou Medical College along with the Guangzhou Municipal Health Bureau, helped coordinate their visits to health care sites.

Su said the Chinese delegates at CSUN are either self-funded or supported by funds provided by organizations that are associated with the Chinese government, such as the China Scholarship Council, or CSC.

She said the visiting scholars at CSUN are spread out within many departments at the university, doing research, sitting in on c
lasses and participate in various cultural activities.

“I am (sitting) in classes, (but) no credit – the classes are chosen based on what you like,” said He, the professor of English from Tongji University in Shanghai.

He said her living expenses were provided through her school, while the CSC paid for her flight. She is doing her research on English language and teaching through the College of Arts, Media, and Communication at CSUN, and plans to teach a course about American movies next semester when she goes back to China.

“American movies are booming in China. Most movies are already there,” He said. “I let my students watch (the movie) and listen to the language.”

He said that she has had positive feelings and experiences so far in the United States since she came, despite the differences between the two cultures. She said she has a very nice host family and that Su has been wonderful to her.

He said that the amount of feedback students give during class discussion at CSUN surprised her because it was so different than the norm in China.

“Sometimes students in China are shy, silent and they would not post questions,” He said. “I make my own class interactive.”

Within two to three years, the China Institute will introduce a joint degree program for Chinese students that will allow them to earn two degrees by attending both CSUN and its sister school in Shanghai.

Chinese students will begin their studies in China, Su said, and transfer to CSUN after two years much like a community college student. Then the students will go back to China to finish their theses.

“(These students) can play some major roles in facilitating future collaboration and change,” Su said.

Joanne Angeles can be reached at joanne.angeles.673@csun.edu.