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Published: Thursday, 8/4/2005

UT seeks to strengthen China ties

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

University of Toledo President Dan Johnson and his wife will leave today for China, where they'll spend more than a week building relationships, focusing on ties that could help to bring more Chinese students to Toledo.

"I would say if there's a single purpose, we'd like to attract some of the best and brightest undergraduate and graduate students there," Mr. Johnson said of the trip, which marks his first such venture since becoming president in 2001.

Earlier this year, Mr. Johnson sought the approval of the UT board of trustees to take a group of people, which also includes two university professors, on the trip.

Key stops include universities, companies, and governments located largely in the areas of Beijing, Qinhuangdao, and Shanghai.

During the trip, Mr. Johnson expects to meet with undergraduate and graduate students at Yanshan University who've already been accepted at UT. He'll also sign a future inter-institutional recruitment plan that involves students from the Yanshan and Qinhuangdao/Hebei region.

On Tuesday, Mr. Johnson and his wife, Elaine, a board member of Toledo Sister Cities International, will spend time with sister-city officials in Qinhuangdao, which is one of Toledo's nine sister cities.

UT this fall is extending its in-state undergraduate tuition rates to students from all of Toledo's sister cities.

The Johnsons on Tuesday also will attend a forum with high school students and their parents.

Other highlights include plans to gather with UT alumni in China to establish the first university alumni chapter there.

In addition, Mr. Johnson is hoping to meet with leaders to discuss the need for improvements to the visa process for Chinese students coming to the United States, something that has become more difficult in recent years.

The university is picking up the tab for the officials on the trip, which includes Mr. Johnson; Bob Cryan, a professor of early childhood psychology and special education, and Jiquan Chen, a professor of ecology.

Mr. Cryan largely was responsible for organizing the trip, while Mr. Chen helped to make arrangements and will serve as an interpreter. Plans call for the Johnsons to remain in China through Aug. 15.

Mrs. Johnson's travel expenses will be covered by the university as well, said Rick Stansley, vice chairman of the board of trustees. The trustees believe that Mrs. Johnson will serve a public relations role for the university.

Mr. Johnson said he initially planned to cover his wife's travel expenses.

Mr. Stansley said trustees have given their support for the trip, which stems in part from the university's historically strong enrollment of international students. Part of the trip's costs potentially could be covered with money from the UT foundation, he said.

The total bill for the trip won't be known until it's completed, but the airfare for the Johnsons will be $4,616, a sum that includes the travel to China and a side trip to Malaysia.

In Malaysia, Mr. Johnson plans to take a look at a "people-mover" already in place, something he would like to see developed in the planned Northwest Ohio Science and Technology Corridor.

Part of the trip to China was paved in May when Martin Abraham, dean of UT's graduate college, paid a recruiting visit to Yanshan University while he was in the country attending a workshop.

He hopes the pending agreement between the institutions will enable UT to recruit qualified students from that university.

"I think China is an important place for us to be. I don't just mean UT," he said, adding that it should be a focus for U.S. educational institutions in general.

Across the nation, though, the presence of international students has declined.

According to an annual reported released last fall, the number of international students dropped by 2.4 percent for the 2003-2004 school year, with a total of 572,509 foreign students in the U.S.

At UT, officials last fall experienced another significant decrease in its overall international student numbers, falling to 822 from 945. The university has reported decreases over the last five years.

Similarly, the number of Chinese students at the university has dropped consecutively in recent years from 271 students in 2000 to 199 last fall.

Contact Kim Bates at:

kimbates@theblade.com

or 419-724-6074.



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