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Chinese visitors seek to learn from UConn experience, expertise

Hopes of gaining a jump start on education and economic development issues back home brought two different groups of Chinese delegates to campus this month.

A group of administrators from the Aetna School of Management at Shanghai JiaoTong University spent six days in Storrs looking at UConn's academic programs, starting October 2, as part of a tour of four colleges, including George Washington and Columbia universities and the University of Illinois.

In light of a $10 million donation from Aetna to build a state-of-the-art facility and library in Shanghai, the group wanted to visit a variety of business schools to learn how academic programs are delivered, how the curriculum is developed and how to determine which materials are needed. They met faculty in the business school to discuss ways to run various programs and also watched them teach.

"We are impressed with the teaching facilities at the University of Connecticut," said Wei Jin, vice dean and associate professor of the Aetna School of Management. "Some of the things that caught our attention were the ability to have video projectors connected to computers so you can see what is on the screen. We also liked the fact that each MBA student was equipped with a laptop computer."

As for how the classes are taught, Jin and the others enjoyed the group discussions and projects because they promote interaction between students and teachers.

"In China, the delivery of course content by professors does not permit too much interaction with students," he said. "We have to change this style of teaching, because students get more out of interactive learning than passively sitting there and listening."

In order to do this, "we have to retrain our professors," Jin said. Already two professors from the Aetna school are taking coursework in management and finance at UConn.

"The business climate (in China) is changing," said Robert Hoskin, associate dean of UConn's School of Business Administration, "and they have to think of ways to meet those needs. If they want to develop a world class business school, they are going to have to understand other markets across the world so they can attract top flight faculty and students."

Also visiting UConn was a Shaanxi Provincial Delegation headed by deputy governor, Ms. Fan Xiaomei. Recently, the Chinese central government allocated funding to Shaanxi to set up a development zone to improve the economy of the province.

"The province is one of the biggest agricultural zones in Northwest China, but it is typically a very poor area," said Jerry Yang, a professor of animal science at UConn and director of China Bridge International (CBI). To develop the zone, the delegation is seeking potential collaborators. They are hoping to find some through CBI, which has fellowship programs to support the most qualified scientists, educators and engineers in the United States and other western countries to develop collaborative projects of scientific research, teaching and technology transfer with fellow scientists in China.

"One of the biggest problems we face is feeding 1.6 billion people," said Zhang Maizeng, vice-president of Xl'an Jiaotong University, one of the members of the Shaanxi delegation. "Our province lacks water, so we discussed with UConn faculty members some sewer and irrigation solutions, along with ways to increase the quality and output of our agricultural product."

The delegation also met a group of Chinese students, because "we want to publicize the project to overseas Chinese students and attract them to return home when they complete their studies to participate in the construction and research work that will need to be done for the zone," Maizeng said.

Also on campus last week was H K Chang, president and university professor of City University of Hong Kong. Chang is paying a return visit to Mark Emmert, chancellor and provost for university affairs, who took part in the first International Higher Education Conference in Hong Kong in July..

Luis Mocete