Three major Minnesota universities are currently participating in Governor Dayton’s Trade Mission to China. The University of Minnesota, St. Cloud State University, and Metropolitan State University have each seen substantial growth in their relationships with Chinese universities, students, and faculty in recent years, and the current trade mission offers all three an occasion to strengthen current ties to China, and to also create new partnerships. Below is a brief overview of each university’s connections to China, as well as their objectives for the current trade mission.
University of Minnesota
The first Chinese students attended the University of Minnesota in 1914. Today, of the 4,500 international students, faculty, and staff at the University, over 1,400 are visiting Chinese scholars and students, the largest Chinese population of any campus in North America. In 2004, President Robert Bruininks led an official University of Minnesota delegation to China to facilitate educational exchange and promote cultural understanding. By 2009, the University of Minnesota launched its first official office abroad in Beijing, which provides support for students, faculty, and staff traveling to China on official University business. The University’s rapport with China has consistently progressed in recent years, leading to a growing Chinese presence on campus, which the current delegation will continue to encourage.
St. Cloud State University
Saint Cloud State University (SCSU) has developed deep international relationships and agreements over many years of interaction. St. Cloud State University has active relationships with more than 25 overseas universities and institutions through their Center for International Studies, including eight Chinese universities. The partnerships include student and faculty exchanges and participation of Chinese students and faculty in a summer training institute on the SCSU campus.
The partnership with Shanghai University of Engineering Science has taken individual importance during this trade mission. St. Cloud State University President Earl Potter, a veteran of four governor’s trade missions, anticipates meeting with the new president of SUES, Xiaodong Ding, during the trade mission. In addition, both SUES President Xiaodong Ding and the institution’s previous president, Dr. Wang Hong, now governor of the industrial/port district in Shanghai, have both been invited to attend a reception with Governor Dayton.
Metropolitan State University
Metropolitan State University, which serves students through evening, weekend, online, individualized and flexible programs from locations in St. Paul, Midway, Minneapolis, and Brooklyn Park, also has partnership agreements with universities in Taipei and Hsinshu, Taiwan. “We have brought cohorts of Taiwanese students to the Twin Cities to pursue their MBA degrees from Metropolitan State,” Metropolitan State University President Sue Hammersmith said. “We’ve been doing that for nearly 20 years, and we have hundreds of alumni in Taiwan, some of whom are working on economic development projects on mainland China.”
Now, Hammersmith says Metro State is interested in partnering with universities on mainland China. Hammersmith is also excited to be traveling on the trade mission and making key connections with the other members of the business delegation. Metro State pioneered online education and is the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system’s biggest provider of online degree programs. Trade mission participants are also employers who might also carry information about Metro State learning opportunities and programs back to their workplaces.
Building International Relationships and Strengthening Higher Education in Minnesota
The trade mission to China offers these three great Minnesota universities an opportunity to further develop their existing partnerships with Chinese students, faculty, and universities. The mission will also allow the three institutions for higher education an important opportunity to deepen their understanding Chinese education, business, and culture.