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U.S.-China education ties explored by 42 universities

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–Several Baptist colleges are at the forefront of exploring ways to open new academic pathways among educators in China and the United States.

Representatives from the Baptist colleges took significant leadership roles at a major conference at China’s Qingdao University.

The conference, titled “Globalization: Education, Business, Culture, Health: A Sino-American Summit,” attracted 300 participants representing 18 universities in the United States and 24 in China.

Subjects explored included international business, economics, finance and entrepreneurship, international studies, communication, culture and language, public health, aging and nutrition.

The June 21-23 conference was sponsored by the Consortium for Global Education, a nonprofit organization of 43 accredited private universities and colleges in the United States with 241 overseas universities in 80 countries. Union University President David S. Dockery is the CGE chairman-elect.

Dockery moderated a discussion on accreditation, delivered an address on international business trends and spoke at the closing dinner.

“It is gratifying to see people from west Tennessee on the international stage, helping to lead so many important global discussions,” Dockery said. “Union had the largest and most significant presence of any American university.”

In his final address to the conference, Dockery acknowledged areas of commonality between western and eastern civilizations in business, healthcare and education. But he discussed the differences that the cultures have to acknowledge.

Dockery summarized the influence of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism on Asian thought, then traced the major questions raised in western philosophy. Asians focus on a personal concept of law and impersonal deities, he noted, while western thought has emphasized the importance of a personal deity and the rule of law, or impersonal law.

From that, Dockery suggested overarching philosophical educational questions that could help carry the conversation forward.

Ron Ellis, president of California Baptist University, spoke at a symposium on the internationalization of higher education leadership.

“Participation in the conference by CBU strengthened its position as a global player strategically positioned on the Pacific Rim,” Ellis said.

David Smith, president of Brewton-Parker College in Georgia, presented a paper on “Reconsidering the Economy of Scale: How Small Universities Can Positively Affect Higher Education’s Internalization.”

“I find it very interesting that Qingdao University’s highest administrators, all of whom are communist, wish to build a partnership with 18 Christian universities in the United States,” Smith said. “They unanimously expressed that they badly needed the ethics and integrity inherent within Christian higher learning, and the spirit of problem resolution evidenced in American higher education.”

Union University administrators and faculty members had leadership roles as presenters or moderators in 10 events. In addition to Dockery, other participants included Carla Sanderson, university provost; Tim Smith, dean of the school of nursing; Jimmy Davis, vice provost and university professor of chemistry; Cynthia Jayne, associate provost and dean of Union’s Institute for International and Intercultural Studies; and Charles Fowler, senior vice president for university relations.

Sociology professor Naomi Larsen also led nine Union graduate students who participated in the conference as part of a class project.

Tim Smith, in a presentation on avian flu, discussed the symptoms of the disease and how education institutions should prepare themselves if the disease were to become a pandemic.

“It’s a world health issue, not just a China or an Indonesia or American issue,” Smith said. “The room was packed, because I think most people have not taken the time to stop and learn about it.”

Representatives from China’s minister of education Zhou Ji addressed the conference, as did representatives from the U.S. State Department. A letter also was presented from Clark T. Randt Jr., the U.S. ambassador to China.

Qingdao, on China’s northeastern coast, is a city of 7 million people roughly 240 miles southeast of Beijing. Qingdao will be the host city for the 2008 Olympic water sports.

Union is developing a partnership with Qingdao University in the areas of education and intercultural studies. Union recently established a relationship with Yanbian University, also in northeastern China, near the Russian and North Korean borders. The two schools exchange students and faculty, with plans to pursue a shared master of business administration program.

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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