MTSU China delegation wraps up with fifth partnership

XI’AN, CHINA — Middle Tennessee State University’s delegation to China headed home Wednesday after gaining a fifth new academic partner and setting plans for a group of Rutherford County schoolchildren and parents to visit Xi’an cultural sites in July.

MTSU signed a pact with with Shaanxi Normal University in Xi’an, solidifying a relationship that President Sidney A. McPhee broached in December with SNU leaders at a Beijing ceremony honoring him a “Person of the Year” by the global Confucius Institutes.

It gives MTSU a presence in China’s Shaanxi province in the northwestern region of the country. Xi’an is home to some of China’s top cultural sites, including the archeological dig of Terra Cotta Warriors at the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor.

McPhee noted SNU and MTSU share “normal school roots” and both remain major institutions for training teachers and school administrators. Also, like MTSU, Shaanxi has grown into a major comprehensive university with expertise in sciences and the arts.

“SNU is a top-tier university in China, directly administered by the Ministry of Education here, and known for its quality programs and excellent faculty,” McPhee said. “We are pleased to begin this partnership with our new friends.”

SNU will also be one of three hosts to a group of Rutherford schoolchildren and parents visiting China in July as part of MTSU’s Confucius Institute’s cultural exchange efforts, McPhee said. The delegation on Tuesday set the group’s plans to see the Terra Cotta Warriors, as well as the ancient Xi’an City Walls, Bell Tower and Drum Tower.

The schoolchildren will also visit Hangzhou and Shanghai during the exchange, the third such activity organized under the auspices of MTSU. It follows last year’s visit by Chinese schoolchildren to Murfreesboro and the initial 2012 trip to China by Rutherford students.

Co-hosts Dongcheng Education Group and Hangzhou Normal University, along with private donors, will also provide financial and logistical support for the July trip and parents will pay for the children’s flights to and from China. Hanban, the headquarters for Confucius Institute, is covering the costs of the Xi’an portion of the trip.

“SNU, along our partners at Dongcheng, Hangzhou Normal and Hanban, have allowed us to extend this exchange effort for a third year,” McPhee said. “This is yet another tangible result from the relationships we have created and fostered over the past decade plus.”

The pact signed by MTSU and SNU will allow the two universities to set up student exchanges and develop faculty collaboration, said SNU Vice President Xuqun You.

He said SNU has almost 18,000 undergraduates and almost 8,000 graduate students, along with more than 40,000 enrolled in continuous education and long-distance learning programs. It is located on two large urban campuses in Xi’an and boasts almost 3,000 faculty and staff members.

The university contains 16 colleges and departments, 58 majors, 26 doctoral programs and 95 master programs.

The agreement with Shaanxi was the fifth agreement signed during the MTSU delegation’s visit to China. It follows new pacts with Xiangnan University in Chenzhou; Communication University of China in Beijing; Shanghai Second Polytechnic University; and a renewal of MTSU’s partnership with Hangzhou Normal University.

Under McPhee’s watch, MTSU’s international student enrollment has increased from 396 to 789 in five years, and the university has 335 students in its education abroad programs this summer. It has more than 40 exchange agreements with institutions around the world.

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