University of Wisconsin faculty addressed the evolving partnership between Madison and China during a panel event at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery Wednesday.
The China in Madison/Madison in China panel presented by the Center for the Humanities featured four UW professors from various disciplines. They analyzed challenges of internationalization and the role of the humanities, particularly the university’s relationship with China, in efforts to expand the university around the world.
Panelist and political science professor Edward Friedman said UW’s relationship with China has long been a “rewarding experience.” Excellent research and studies on China done at the university have strengthened ties and enhanced the economic relationship between Wisconsin and China, Friedman said.
“The wealth of the state depends on China studies in the university to make Wisconsin more important to China,” he said. “We need more growth in China studies for our students, citizens and the state.”
Panelist and UW professor Nicole Huang, director of the Wisconsin China Initiative, said the faculty-led initiative promotes global competence of the university that benefits people beyond the campus community. She added he advocates for expansion of the partnership through campuswide efforts across all departments to create a new collaborative network.
“Now more than ever, we need an initiative to build upon and expand our connections in the greater China region,” Huang said.
Aside from efforts to expand Wisconsin’s profile in China, the audience and panelists also discussed the challenge of engaging the large number of Chinese international students in Madison.
Chinese international students make up of the largest international student body on campus, according to figures gathered by UW, and the number of new applicants from China continues to increase.
“We have more international students from China than from any other country in the world, and they can enrich our community if we help them get integrated,” Friedman said.
Sandra Arfa, the director of UW’s Program in English as a Second Language, said she often finds Chinese international students isolated and with limited understanding of American culture. Given the large number of Chinese international students, many do not feel the need to integrate with American students and others find it hard to do so, Arfa said.
Staff, faculty and students in the audience offered solutions such as having an integrated Student Orientation, Advising and Registration program for both domestic and international students, programs through the International Student Services and integration through classroom activities.
Si Miao, a student from China, said conferences such as the Madison in China/China in Madison one, are less useful than classroom activities initiated by individual faculty members.
Others students also expressed the concern of not having enough student participation in campuswide issues such as internationalization.
Lee Rensimer, a graduate student studying education policy, said UW’s internationalization is not talked about enough. He said he thinks these types of conversations should be more prevalent.
Quinn Bottum, a Chinese and international studies major, echoed Rensimer’s concerns.
“Too often we get caught up in discussing things internally and in small groups,” Bottum said. “We have an amazing group of students but we don’t use them enough, we don’t include them in these kinds of discussions.”