SOU Builds Bridges to China

(Ashland, Ore) Officials from Southern Oregon University and the Zhengzhou University of Light Industry (ZULI) in China will sign an agreement Tuesday, September 21, to provide a joint degree program between the two schools. The official signing ceremony will be at 11:30 a.m. in the DeBoer Room of Hannon Library.

This agreement is the latest in a series of initiatives SOU has undertaken to build relationships in China. SOU President Mary Cullinan just returned from a two-week visit to China, as part of an Oregon legislative and trade delegation, which included renewing the Memorandum of Understanding between SOU and Fujian Normal University (FNU).  The FNU relationship began 20 years ago with a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development and has included numerous faculty exchanges between the universities over the years.

“I was delighted to plan further collaboration with administrators at FNU,” noted President Cullinan. “And I’m so pleased that I was able to participate in the delegation. Our Oregon legislators are very supportive of SOU’s work to build partnerships in China.”

President Cullinan’s blog and photos from China can be seen at http://news.sou.edu/president/

Last year SOU’s School of Business signed an agreement with Henan Normal University to jointly administer a program in tourism and hospitality management. Arrangements are underway between the two universities to offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in aging services as well.

Also in 2009, SOU began offering Mandarin Chinese in collaboration with the Confucius Classroom at St. Mary’s School. Twenty-eight Chinese high school students who are attending St. Mary’s currently live in SOU student housing. With the addition of Chinese to the curriculum, SOU becomes the only regional university in the Oregon University System to offer Chinese and Japanese.

Several Southern Oregon University professors have long had significant ties to China and have committed themselves to support and participate in the activities of the Confucius Institute.

Dr. Gary M. Miller, SOU’s Director of International Programs, has extensive experience in international education, at the local, state, national, and global levels.  His Chinese experience dates from the mid-1980s when he created, negotiated, and directed a program that included faculty exchanges, joint research projects, and a study abroad program at Southwest China Normal University (now Southwest University) in Beibei District, Chongqing Municipality.  This early experience in working closely with Chinese counterparts provides SOU with valuable practical knowledge to ensure its success.  Dr. Miller holds the rank of Professor in the Department of History and Political Science.

Professor Alexander Tutunov is Professor of Piano and Artist in Residence at Southern Oregon University and was recently named Associate Director of the Chinese-American International Piano Institute in Chengdu.  He is widely recognized as one of the most outstanding virtuosos of the former Soviet Union.  Dr. Tutunov maintains a busy performing schedule in Europe, China, Mexico, and the United States as a recitalist, soloist with orchestra, and on radio and television. Dr. Tutunov is also in demand as an adjudicator for piano competitions.

Dr. Rhett L. Bender, is a Professor of Music at Southern Oregon University Department of Music where he teaches saxophone, clarinet, and music theory and serves as Graduate Coordinator.  He frequently teaches as saxophone artist/teacher-in-residence at the Sichuan Conservatory in Chengdu, China.  Professor Bender’s Saxophone Quartet toured Sichuan in 2005, and performed at the China Music Trade Show in Shanghai and Yantai in 2007.

Dr. Steve Thorpe, is a Professor of Education at Southern Oregon University and an expert on the Chinese educational system and pedagogy. He took part in the teaching exchange at Fujian University and has returned many times to China as a research scholar.  Dr. Thorpe teaches courses on Chinese history and on the educational system in China.  He trains middle school and high school Social Studies teachers on how to teach about China, using China as an example of a major non-Western country and a socialist country ruled by a Communist Party.  Dr. Thorpe also does cultural presentations to elementary and middle school student groups on China, and presents a special curriculum unit, “Demystifying the Chinese Language,” to a minimum of four elementary classrooms each year.

SOU is working to attract international students to study in Ashland.  The new Intensive English Program (IEP) has admitted ten Chinese students for the Fall term.  These students will pursue a variety of majors once their academic English language skills have reached a high level.  The Chinese will join fellow students from over thirty nations in pursuing their education at SOU.

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