Administrators renew China abroad program

by Jackie Tempera / Beacon Staff • November 10, 2011

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President M. Lee Pelton and a delegation of five Emerson College administrators returned from China on Sunday as part of a push to cultivate stronger ties with the Communications University of China (CUC) and further Pelton’s goal of expanding study-abroad and student exchange programs.

According to Pelton, the team of deans, study-abroad directors, and department chairs who visited the university in the Chayong District of Beijing are the first group of Emerson officials to do so since 2009. The team renewed a 12-year- long relationship with CUC.

In the past, Emerson has hosted CUC students for a semester, but Pelton hopes the new program will encourage students here to study in the Chinese capital. Two students from CUC studied at Emerson last semester, and another will come this February, said Vice President of Academic Affairs Linda Moore. She hopes this number will increase because of the strengthened relationship.

According to Director of International Study and External Programs David Griffin, Emerson will send a small group of exchange students to CUC in Fall 2012.

Meanwhile, administrators are in the process of setting up a two to three week summer program for about 15 undergraduates that will take place in June 2012. This option, if economically possible, will offer students four visual and media arts credits, Griffin said.

“We hope the relationship will provide for many more opportunities for faculty and student exchanges between our two institutions,” said Pelton.

CUC, a leading communication university in China according to the university’s website, represents what the president believes to be a good match for Emerson students.

“Obviously we live in a global world, and China is and continues to be an economic and cultural powerhouse,” said Pelton. “It makes sense for us to go with them in partnerships that will enhance and strengthen the educational experiences of our students and faculty.”

Pelton said he hopes that cultural exchanges between the two schools will be made possible in upcoming years, specifically with a volleyball tournament.

“We both have teams,” said Pelton. “And these kinds of intercultural exchanges and dialogues are important to our growth as individuals and as a college.”

While in China, the faculty group met with administrators from CUC as well as the Beijing Film Academy (BFA) and the School of Journalism at Fudan University in Shanghai. The group hopes to set up exchange programs with all three universities, said Pelton.

Griffin said he was happy with the warm and friendly attitude from the host universities.

Pelton signed a Memorandum of Understanding, a nonlegal agreement between two groups, with the presidents of CUC and BFA, while Griffin signed a Student Exchange agreement with Dean Gao of the CUC School of Television and Journalism.

Griffin said the meeting with the Fudan school was more general, but the interest showed by the school’s administration leads him to believe a similar document will be signed in the near future.

“I think it’s safe to say that Emerson is held in high regard by our counterparts in China,” said Griffin.

Currently, the Chinese media operates under strict censorship laws. In 2010 the New York Time’s published a portion of the restrictions in the article “What Chinese Censors Don’t Want You To Know.”

According to the piece, media members cannot report on people without government approval, run negative articles on the front page of a newspaper or news website, report on hunger strikes, report on prisons, or report any political news the government-run paper Xinhua News Agency and People’s Daily did not feature previously.

Pelton, said though the details of this aspect of the relationship with CUC have not been decided yet, the administrators will keep censorship in mind.

“Of course, we will be mindful of the cultural and political differences of our two countries as we move forward with this arrangement,” he said.

The new Beijing program will follow a similar structure as the current exchange program available to students in Taiwan.

Juniors and marketing communication majors, Emily Chu and Minh Pham, studied at Shih Hsin University in Taipei, Taiwan last semester. Both said they loved the experience and feel there is a huge advantage to studying as an exchange student, rather than immersing themselves in a group of Emerson students in a foreign country, as in the Netherlands program at the school’s Kasteel Well satellite campus.

“I got to spend more time there. I got to stay for five months in one place and become more culturally involved,” said Chu.

In the future, Pelton said he hopes to create more student-exchange programs and to eventually have a study-abroad opportunity for students on each continent.

“Europe is an obvious choice,” said Pelton. “It is not clear to me why, given our strong dramatic arts program that we don’t have a program in London, and I can imagine us in Paris.”

Pelton said he is open to student suggestions for other possible campuses. He urges Emerson students to talk to him or send him an email with any requests or ideas.

“Those suggestions must include colleges that have a similar curricular interest as we do,” said Pelton. “They must be the principle match.”

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