HAYS — Fort Hays State University has taken another step toward serving Chinese university students.
In a recent ceremony, Fort Hays signed a study-abroad agreement with Northwest University of Nationalities in Langzhou, Gansu. All 55 of the minorities in China are represented in its student enrollment.
"They have asked Fort Hays to pay attention to the minorities of China," said Cindy Elliott, dean of strategic partnerships and distance learning at Fort Hays. "They've been pleased with the educational attention we've given to Chinese students, and they wanted us to give the same attention to the minorities."
Three officials from the Chinese university were on hand for the signing in FHSU's Custer Hall.
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Ma Jingquan, executive vice president of Northwest, first signed a framework agreement along with Larry Gould, provost and chief academic officer of Fort Hays.
Elliott said the framework agreement describes the layout of initiatives that could take place, ranging from exchange of teaching curriculum to joint publications.
Since Northwest's custom is to sign a framework agreement and an addendum for each specific agreement that falls under that umbrella, Elliott and Qui Weiquan, director of International Cooperation and Exchange Division, then signed the papers for the first initiative with Northwest.
Both sets of agreements were signed in triplicate, in English and Chinese. One set will be on file in the office of FHSU president Edward Hammond, one in the office of the president 's office at Northwest and the third with the Chinese government.
With Weiquan serving as interpreter, Jingquan said that he agreed with Gould's ideas and that the agreement "is the tie to link both institutions together."
Also making the two-day trip to Hays was Ma Zhongren, deputy dean of the Life Science School at NWUN.
Fort Hays began partnerships with Chinese universities in 1999 that developed into a cross-border, dual-degree program with three institutions where FHSU sends faculty to China, and the students never leave their home country.
Fort Hays also has numerous study-abroad partnerships with Chinese institutions, but this marks the first it has entered into in that province.
"This (also) is our first time to sign an agreement with a university that serves so many ethnic students," Elliott added.
This fall, five Northwest University students will begin their academic programs.
"It's an example how Fort Hays State is reaching out," Elliott said of the newest partnership. "Many American universities take Chinese students, but not very many are devoted to taking the minorities."
The partnership also could open some doors for Fort Hays professors, as future plans include inviting American professors to come to Northwest to assess its courses and curriculum as well as make presentations to NWUN students and faculty.