College of Human Sciences associate dean Linda Serra Hagedorn (center) recently returned from China where she administered poster fairs at five universities as part of the Bald Eagle and Panda Series. Contributed photos.

Students travel to China as college grows international presence

Iowa State University is growing its presence in China and sparking new relations with India.

Six College of Human Sciences students are on an expense-paid trip to China this week and next week. They are serving as summer camp counselors, teaching undergraduates at Xinlian College of Henan Normal University about English and American cultural activities such as cooking, dancing, and sports. The delegation was chosen from 120 students who applied.

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Qynne Kelly

“I think Iowa State should always strive to become more culturally proficient,” said Qynne Kelly, a distance education graduate student who is also an English language learner instructional coach for the Des Moines Public Schools.

“Offering opportunities such as this shows Iowa State’s commitment to providing a global, democratic education to ISU students,” Kelly said. “Iowa State is doing its part in engaging in learning about international relations, cultural competency, and providing equitable opportunities for all students.”

Kelly is joined in China by School of Education graduate students Inna Kuznetsova and Yaqi Zhang; apparel, merchandising, and design senior Molly Hawks; and kinesiology and health undergraduates Justin Morton and Elijah Dean Smith.

“I hope to achieve success as a group by leaving a positive, inspiring image of ourselves the College of Human Sciences, the University and our Country with everyone we encounter,” Smith said.

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Inna Kuznetsova

Hawks said her experiences studying abroad have taught her about compassion and the value of taking time to learn about people and listen to what they have to say.

“All of this has helped to make me a better individual and better prepared for the workplace,” she said.

Kuznetsova, a doctoral student and the group’s leader, is working with Hagedorn on a dissertation about Chinese students. She is also a professional figure skater and a coach with the Central Iowa Figure Skating Club.

“I was interested in learning more about Chinese students' perceptions about U.S. higher education before they embark on their journey in order to enrich the students' orientation process at the U. S. institutions,” Kuznetsova said. “My motivation was fueled by the belief that if the admissions office has a better idea what perceptions some Chinese students have about college life in the U.S., they might improve the orientation sessions to addressing these perceptions.”

An international associate dean

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Linda Hagedorn makes a presentation in China

All of this international activity is directed by Linda Serra Hagedorn, an associate dean of the College of Human Sciences in charge of international programs.

Hagedorn recently spent six weeks in China and India on a multitude of college-related international ventures including delivering a signed memorandum of agreement with Henan Agricultural University, administering poster fairs at five Chinese universities, and delivering addresses at three Chinese high schools.

In China, Iowa State was recognized with an award for best American cultural center. In India, Hagedorn worked with the private Indian community college system to establish recognition by the government.  

“We are becoming known as a college that does a lot of international work,” she said. “We are establishing joint programs. We are providing opportunities for our students. It’s a global society. We want to make sure that we’re training students to be globally competent.”

New efforts in India

The work in India is new for Hagedorn, who is also a professor in the School of Education specializing in research relating to community colleges. She is partnering with the privately run Indian community colleges to expand and establish recognition by the Indian government.

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M.S. Panwar Community and Technical College in India

“This may result in some study abroad opportunities for our students, as well as bringing additional international students here,” said Hagedorn, who said the current Indian community college system receives no government support.

“Community colleges in the United States have always prided themselves on being cost effective and providing access to people who couldn’t otherwise afford to go to college,” Hagedorn said. “That’s the same thing that we want for the Indian system. The need there is extremely great, so having additional funding and support could really provide a lot of opportunities.”

Brijender Singh Panwar, president of M.S. Panwar Community and Technical College in India, will from Aug. 3 to 5 visit Iowa State, Kirkwood Community College, and Des Moines Area Community College to further this effort.

Six-year partnership with China

Iowa State’s partnership with Chinese universities began in 2011 when Hagedorn; Arne Hallam, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and Rebecca Tang, an associate professor in apparel, events, and hospitality management; received a three-year, $100,000 grant from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing to promote language and cultural exchange between American and Chinese higher education institutions.

The College of Human Sciences began working to establish and maintain American cultural centers on the campuses of Chinese universities. The center at Xinlian College in Zhengzhou is among 10 American cultural centers in China where college students can improve their English language proficiency, watch American movies, listen to American music, learn about American sports, and participate in various activities.

During Hagedorn’s recent trip, Iowa State received the ACCEX Network 2017 Excellence Award from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing for the most innovative programming and best American cultural center for the American Centers for Cultural Exchange.

The award came with $3,000 to improve the American cultural center at Xinlian College. Hagedorn credits postdoctoral research associate Ran Li and doctoral student Shaohua Pei with being instrumental in working with this cultural center. The award recognizes the contributions of many at Iowa State and in China.

Ongoing international efforts

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Chinese students participating in the Bald Eagle and Panda Series

Iowa State is in its fourth year of leading the Bald Eagle and Panda Series, aimed at promoting cooperation and peace between United States and China. Major events include the annual virtual international conferences, study trips in the United States, summer camps in China, and monthly newsletters.

Joined by Tang and Hallam, Hagedorn recently administered the Bald Eagle and Panda poster fair at five educational institutions in China. They judged more than 80 posters and will be judging papers, as well. Two student winners will receive a 10-day educational trip to the United States, while others will receive scholarships.

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Justin Morton

Hagedorn also made a total of 10 presentations during her visit to China and India. Topics spanned from higher education in America to building an international collaboration with trust. Such exchanges are aimed at improving our understanding of one another.

“On a daily level we collaborate with people from around the world to complete specific tasks,” said Morton, one of the students currently in China. “Knowing a little bit about people and their background will do two things in particular. One, it will let them relax a little and be more willing to cooperate. Two, it will allow you to understand where they may be coming from with things you may not see eye to eye on.”

New exchange with Henan Agricultural University

Additional exchanges between the two countries will occur under a new memorandum of agreement between Iowa State University and Henan Agricultural University, which is also located in Zhengzhou, the capital city of Henan Province in China.

Under the agreement, the two universities will establish a dual undergraduate degree program in food science where students can study and obtain a degree from both universities. Faculty members will also have the opportunity to conduct collaborative research.  

Henan Agricultural University will recruit students seeking a bachelor of science degree in food science and technology, and those seeking a degree in food science and industry, who qualify for the new program. The first students are expected to arrive in fall 2018.