University’s foray into China sets groundwork for model of success

February 13, 2013

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Lisle, Illinois ~ America’s business relationship with China is often vilified for sending jobs overseas to save money in wages and increase profits. However, as the second largest world economy behind the United States, China is a global powerhouse that no savvy business or institution pursuing an international presence can ignore.

Higher institutions of learning like Benedictine University realize the value of having a presence in China and the reciprocal benefits for a university and its community.

Benedictine, a private liberal arts university west of Chicago, engineered relations with China a decade ago, working directly with Chinese universities to establish partnerships. Since then, Benedictine has expanded its academic programs in China and Vietnam, which directly benefits the University and its community economically. Today, Asian students are enrolled throughout Benedictine’s Lisle and Springfield campuses – equal to one-fourth of the University’s incoming freshmen at its main Lisle campus. Through its partnerships with Chinese and Vietnamese universities, hundreds of students, unable to travel to the United States to study, are enrolled in programs in China and Vietnam.

These foreign students are paying full tuition, paying for apartments, cars, food, entertainment – boosting the local economy while creating synergy for the University, fellow students, America and China.

In addition to Chinese and Vietnamese students coming to the United States to study, Benedictine students have been able, in increasing numbers, to travel to China to study. Most of these American students from Benedictine have received scholarships from the Chinese government to study in China. Benedictine faculty has also traveled to China to teach and to work with Chinese faculty on a myriad of projects. As a result of all this activity in China, Benedictine has opened offices in Guangzhou and Beijing.

Benedictine University President William J. Carroll, Ph.D., believes that to be competitive in the global market, institutions must invest in China. Carroll has recently been invited to share his successful model at several conferences, including the Council of Independent Colleges’ Presidents Institute, the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities Annual Meeting, and the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers: Association of International Educators Annual Conference.

“Benedictine University has an extended family throughout China. Whenever I am there, I try to meet with the families who have sent their children to study at Benedictine in the United States,” Carroll said. “In these encounters, I quickly learned that there is a universal language – the language of parents. Most people want the same thing: security for family, a decent place to live and a job so one can provide for one’s family.”

Due to post-recession U.S. job woes, talking about building relationships with China may seem like a faux pas. However, American colleges and universities are experiencing a boom of admitted China students who are competing with American students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields where U.S. students trail. More Chinese students are being admitted to elite schools, not only because of applicants’ ability to pay, but because many excel STEM. U.S. students currently rank 25th in math and 17th in science globally, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s 2012 Education at a Glance report. This creates a highly competitive situation for American students to excel early in STEM fields.

Benedictine, which is known for its strong science programs, aims to tackle multiple issues simultaneously: improving America’s competitiveness nationally and globally by graduating Chinese and American students who are strong in STEM to fill needed jobs, while creating valuable diverse experiences for all students.

The intrinsic benefit to American and Chinese students is in the cultural exchange. Students not only are competing with global partners, but learn cultural norms that make international relations and business endeavors sustainable. Coming to America to earn degrees is vital for Chinese students who learn valuable language and cultural skills that translate into higher pay back in China.

However, many Chinese prefer to not go abroad, which is why American universities like Benedictine need a presence in China.

The answer to whether a college education is still worth pursuing is a resounding “yes” from the Chinese. And that highly-valued education that many Chinese want is most desired from American colleges and universities.

By bringing programs to China, Benedictine not only provides a sought-after education but also shares its Benedictine values, which help foster a better understanding between American and Chinese people, while instilling principled practices that will serve the students and their communities lifelong.

As Asian-Americans, China and other countries celebrate the lunar New Year and the Chinese New Year in the “year of the snake,” American universities need to take notice that China’s growth demands a well-educated and well-trained population. Schools must seek to meet this need or be left behind.

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Benedictine University is an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois and Mesa, Arizona. Founded in 1887, Benedictine provides 55 undergraduate majors and 15 graduate and four doctoral programs. Benedictine University is ranked No. 1 among the country's fastest-growing campuses between 2002-2012 in The Chronicle of Higher Education's list of private nonprofit doctoral institutions, and Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the fourth consecutive year in 2014. Benedictine University's Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain's Chicago Business as the sixth largest in the Chicago area in 2014.

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