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MSU hosts forum as interest in, presence of China grows on campus

September 13, 2011

As China emerges as a major global power, its presence in the U.S. – and on campus – is growing as well.

An MSU China Studies and Programs Forum recently held in Lansing addressed the possibility of the addition of a new specialization in China studies.

The forum, which was hosted by International Studies and Programs at the James B. Henry Executive Center for Development, focused mainly on the topic of an increasing Chinese presence at MSU.

“The reason (the forum) happened is, as China increases in importance on the global stage, we felt that there was more and more going on at MSU by way of research and interest in China,” said Siddharth Chandra, director for the Asian Studies Center.

There is no timeline for the proposed specialization yet, and the center has to discuss the possibility of its creation with a college at MSU willing to house it, he said.

“MSU students for the last few years have shown an increased interest in studying about China,” he said, adding that MSU’s first-year Chinese course has seven sections.

Participants at the forum also discussed how MSU could get involved with the 100,000 Strong Initiative, which is a federal program designed to increase the number of American students studying in China, Chandra said.

The next step MSU officials are taking is to facilitate more interaction between international students from China and domestic students.

“We have a reasonably large number of students from China at MSU,” Chandra said. “It’s an opportunity for students from the United States to meet and hopefully develop friendships with people from China.”

Carlos Fuentes, assistant director of the Internationalizing the Student Experience program, is heading some of the initiatives dealing with integrating international students with campus.

“One thing we have is the International Volunteer Action Core (IVAC),” he said. “The whole gist of IVAC is to create spaces where domestic students and international students come together and interact so they can develop their own personal relationships.”

In an increasingly globalized world, knowing how to interact and cooperate with people from other countries is becoming more valuable than ever, Fuentes said.

“That is the goal of the university — to have graduates that are ready to hit the ground running and already have those skills in how to navigate diverse environments,” he said.

Political theory and constitutional democracy and international relations junior Sam Kilberg spent part of this summer studying abroad in Harbin, China.

Kilberg was asked to speak at the forum last week to discuss his trip to China and how he felt about the study abroad experience.

“It’s extremely important (to increase Chinese awareness on campus),” he said. “The relationship between us and China is growing a lot more than just economically.”

After his experience in China, Kilberg started volunteering on campus to help international students with things, such as moving in and grocery shopping. Kilberg said the relationships people form with international students will shape their impression of America.

“If (international students) have a good feeling about their time spent in America at MSU, then it’s only going to help the relationship with China and America in the future,” Kilberg said.

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