Sac State's China Connection
In a world that is thinking globally, Sac State is acting locally—in one of the planet’s biggest neighborhoods.
With a helping hand from alum and Hong Kong native Winnie Leung, the University is making inroads in China, establishing programs to introduce the country to Western practices in higher education and business. Other programs are assisting the exchange of students between the two countries and assuring that those students have the necessary language skills to understand one another.
Leung, one of a family of Hornets, has been making the case for a Sac State presence in China for years. A successful businesswoman, she has used her ties to government and corporate interests to open doors.
“I believe China needs exposure to the U.S.A.,” Leung says. “We want to bring to China educational programs in which they learn the English language, and the tools and skills for managing business, etc. In order to maintain a strong international status, I feel Sac State should extend its horizon to China, which is going through strong growth.”
Last fall, for example, she led a contingent from Sac State—including President Alexander Gonzalez, College of Continuing Education Dean Alice Tom and College of Health and Human Services Dean Marilyn Hopkins— on a tour of universities in Hong Kong and several cities in China. Through Leung’s efforts the University is bringing Continuing Education’s successful event planning certifi- cate program to the Chinese—which could be a big help for a country anticipating a huge influx of visitors in the coming years.
“Alice Tom and I have been working for three years on bringing the event planning program to China,” Leung says. “China is having many mega-events such as the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008 and the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010 plus many, many daily, weekly, monthly and annual events happening all over. The skills for event planning are very much needed in China and Continuing Education has already developed a superior program proven in California.”
Tom says Leung is helping Sac State bring Western-style higher education to China. “She is our strongest ally for having a Sacramento State experience in China.” However, Tom admits the program—with topics that include marketing, event planning administration, liability and contract negotiation— has been a tougher sell than they expected. “Although professional training and certificate programs are not currently as wellrecognized as an academic degree program in China, the government is beginning to place value on the concept of lifelong learning. In 2005, they committed signifi- cant resources and funding to support the development of continuous learning programs to help keep their workforce globally competitive,” Tom says.
After a pair of successful pilot programs— one in Shanghai last October and another in Kunming in April—if things go according to plan, the first of two tracks of a six-course certificate program will launch this fall in Shanghai.
Even as the event planning program is taking hold, the College of Continuing Education is looking at other areas to branch out in China. One possibility is an overseas expansion of its English Language Institute, which gives students the skills they need to study in an American university environment. There is also the potential for a certificate course in teaching English as a foreign language.
“China is a big country and Sac State can provide as many programs as possible because with such a large population of students, there are always demands from some group,” Leung says. “My role is to work closely with Alice to make sure we are able to aim at the China market correctly.”
Marilyn Hopkins, dean of the College of Health and Human Services, sees opportunities for exchanges of knowledge, as well as faculty and students, in areas such as social work, criminal justice, nursing, and recreation and leisure studies. “We would like to take the certificate in event planning and bridge to other areas such as hospitality training, and include faculty and students from recreation and leisure studies with an interest in commercial recreation,” she says.
Hopkins already has faculty members involved in research projects looking at the health and safety of Southeast Asians in Hong Kong and China, such as social work professors Francis Yuen and Doman Lum, who are looking at issues related to mental health. And the criminal justice program’s strong reputation has led to talks about the possibility of Sac State providing training in public safety.
At the same time, Sac State is also making it easier for students from China to study in the United States. The “2+2” agreements signed with two universities, Beijing Normal University and Hong Kong’s Chinese University, allow students to complete most of their undergraduate general education classes and some major courses in China and then finish their degree at Sac State. The first students from the Hong Kong school are expected in fall 2007.
Greg Wheeler, associate dean for undergraduate studies, says the key to the programs is not just getting students to study at Sac State, but having the coursework aligned—which can be enough of a challenge when students transfer to Sacramento State from U.S. universities. “It’s tougher when it’s from another country. The syllabi can be hard to translate,” he says.
The agreements also call for exploring additional postgraduate and semester abroad programs, arranging visits between the two campuses, investigating opportunities for faculty and staff exchanges, and identifying additional areas of cooperation. “Bringing Chinese students to Sac State benefits them and greatly enhances our American student’s opportunity to interact with other cultures,” Wheeler says. “We want our students to have a truly global education, and we want our faculty to have opportunities to teach and study with other international scholars.”
Leung, who encouraged her three children to attend Sac State, also believes students from China can help bring the Sac State message back with them. “The large number of alumni who have now returned to China should be able to assist our alma mater to gain some ground in China. I myself am an example but I hope more Chinese alums would do the same.”
- Laurie Hall