Xiamen team visits
19-member administrative team from Xiamen University visits UD
4:40 p.m., Sept. 10, 2012--“When we return to China, we will miss the people of UD. We will also miss the staff of the Confucius Institute, who have treated us as brother and sister,” said Zeng Xiangxuan.
He was one of 19 administrators from Xiamen University in Xiamen, China, who recently took part in a month-long program at the University of Delaware, focusing on the structure and management of American universities.
Making Delaware home
The inaugural Xiamen University Administrator Training Program, held Aug. 12-Sept. 9, and sponsored by the Confucius Institute in collaboration with UD’s Office of the Provost, featured presentations by more than a dozen senior UD administrators on such topics as the structure of American higher education, university development, budget management, student life, research, internationalization, alumni relations and many other areas. Tours of the campus, Delaware Technology Park and the University Library, as well as visits to several Ivy League institutions also were part of the program.
The Confucius Institute was established at UD in 2010 as a partnership of UD and Xiamen University. With financial support from China’s Ministry of Education and Hanban/Confucius Institute Headquarters, the institute offers a variety of Chinese language and cultural programs to the University community and to the public.
“The University of Delaware was delighted to host our colleagues from Xiamen University,” said Interim Provost Nancy Brickhouse. “This important program, which Prof. Jianguo Chen developed, further strengthens the growing connections between our institutions. It fosters greater cultural understanding and provides deeper insight into how to best attain the mutual goal we have for all of our students a first-class education.”
Jianguo Chen, director of UD’s Confucius Institute and associate professor of Chinese Studies in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, noted that Xiamen University has made a strong push for internationalization in recent years.
“One of Xiamen’s strategic initiatives is to send its administrators overseas to study university administration and management,” Chen said. “As a close partner of Xiamen University, I felt that we should do something to help them. When a request was extended to me through the Office of the President of Xiamen University in early May, we at the Confucius Institute responded positively and with enthusiasm. Within less than two months, we designed a program that has satisfactorily met their requirements.”
The program included a combination of intensive English language training, thematic presentations and lectures, and home-stay experience, as well as field trips to historical and cultural attractions. According to Chen, the program was successful on all counts.
“The Xiamen team was particularly impressed by how the University of Delaware manages its operations, as well as by the spirit of the people and the beauty of the campus,” said Chen. “The visit was so successful that we hope to provide reciprocal opportunities for UD administrators to visit Xiamen University in the future. I thank my staff at the Confucius Institute, particularly Carrie Fang, program coordinator, for the successful efforts thus made.”
Zeng Xiangxuan, who directs the Administrative Office at the School of International Relations at Xiamen University, praised the UD speakers for their high-quality presentations. “The management experience was good for us,” he said. “All of us think it’s a huge wealth of knowledge which we will take back to China.”
The administrators gained new knowledge relevant to their areas. Faculty hiring and evaluation, student affairs, and alumni relations and fundraising were among the most useful topics for Yu Xiaofang, an administrator in Xiamen University’s Personnel Office. The mental health of students, strong IT services and undergraduate recruitment also held high importance.
Xiaofang said her impression of UD is “colorful and lively: green lawns and trees, red brick buildings, blue sky with wandering white clouds, the Blue Hen mascot, school colors of blue and gold, young and energetic students with a smile on their faces.”
“I’m also impressed by the diversity in the student body,” she noted. “We saw students of different skin colors on the UD campus, especially Asian students, and the stores on Main Street offer food from more than eight countries, as I counted.”
During their visit, the Xiamen administrators lived with families in the Newark area and experienced American everyday life firsthand.
“I truly enjoyed the homestay experience. It provided us the opportunities to learn about American people and culture,” said Ha Feifei, section chief in Xiamen’s School of Humanities. “It helped me practice English, too. In the meantime, I also had the chance to introduce China to American people. Understanding is based on communication, and I really appreciated the opportunity.”
The Xiamen administrators received intensive English language training at UD’s English Language Institute, meeting five days a week for four weeks in two specially designed classes. “The language class significantly improved my English skills, from basically ‘zero’ to being able to comprehend and express some ideas in English,” noted Lin Shengquan, vice council chairman of the College of Journalism and Communication at Xiamen. “The teachers were great!”
The Xiamen team also became big fans of YoUDee, UD’s Blue Hen mascot so much so that the group plans to recommend to their president that Xiamen create a mascot for their university.
“The hospitality and spirit of UD’s Blue Hens are very impressive in my mind,” said Ye Ling, office director in the Center for Accounting Studies at Xiamen University. “’Dare to be a Blue Hen’ will encourage me to face and overcome the difficulties in life without fear.”
At the closing ceremony, the Xiamen administrators gave the program a glowing evaluation.
As one administrator remarked, “By comparing the higher education systems of the U.S. and China, and relating it to what I do on a daily basis back at Xiamen University, I gained a lot of valuable information. I have already started thinking about improvement in my job. It’s been a very challenging, but rewarding process. Simply wonderful.”
Article by Tracey Bryant
Photo by Duane Perry