KSU preparing center in China

Kristine Gill

Center director has been working in Beijing for the past month to create student exchange programs

“Everything is possible and nothing is easy in China.”

Bei Cai, director of Kent State’s new Beijing Center for International Studies, said she is learning just that.

“Everything is not as organized and not as standardized (in China),” Cai said. “You just have to find your way around. The Chinese put a lot of value on relationships, so business and relationships are mixed.”

Cai has been in China for the past month setting up a center that will eventually house faculty and student exchange programs for Kent State. Because the university already committed to paying her salary, the only additional cost for setting up the program has been renting office space in Beijing.

Cai was born in China and came to work at Kent State through an exchange program. Her background in higher education in both China and the United States and the fact that she is bilingual will help her to establish the center and begin the process of recruiting students.

“It takes time to do the outreach,” she said. “There’s a lot of work to be done before we can build a really nice network.”

Cai said the first step in establishing a presence in China is looking for universities with which to form partnerships. Cai has already compiled a list of international bilingual schools in China that are interested in taking their students abroad.

“America is the No. 1 preferred destination for Chinese students studying abroad,” she said. “We want to create a pipeline with people we can partner with and work on recruitment.”

Provost Robert Frank agreed.

“It’s really to our students’ advantage because they’ll be working and competing with students in China,” he said. “The more opportunities we can create for effective outcomes for Kent State students, the better.”

Frank previously worked at the University of Florida where a study abroad program to China already existed. He said Kent State used its model to create a program here.

“What we’ve had is a smattering of relationships (with foreign countries) and we’re trying to grow our relationships so they’re of a size and scope that makes both operational and fiscal sense,” he said.

Steve Michael, provost for diversity, said Kent State chose to establish a presence in China for three reasons.

“The strongest reason in my opinion is that Kent State students need to know more about China,” he said. “The second reason is that China has one of the fastest growing and largest economies in the world. The third reason is that China has millions of young people looking for university education, but their system is only able to admit a small fraction of that, and Kent State has the capacity to educate highly qualified students.”

Cai will be in China through December, by which time the center should be fully established. Michael said programs and curriculum for the center will be decided from there.

“Each college will have to decide if they can do Web-based distance learning,” Michael said. “It depends on which programs can expand internationally.”

The University hopes to expand international programs even further to include India in the coming years.

Contact academic affairs reporter Kristine Gill

at [email protected].