IU School of Education dean visits China to formalize university partnership, speak at conference
Indiana University School of Education Dean Gerardo Gonzalez is in China this week to formalize a cooperative agreement with the College of Education at Zhejiang University and participate in an annual international education conference. Gonzalez signed an agreement of cooperation and friendship earlier today with Zhejiang University, one of China's leading higher education institutions.
"We've had a long relationship with Zhejiang," Gonzalez said. "A number of our faculty have gone there to teach, and I visited in 2009. We regularly have students and visiting scholars from there. This agreement came about after they expressed a special interest in identifying one institution in the U.S. that would be their primary partner in education."
Gonzalez will also participate in the Worldwide Universities Network's annual "Ideas and Universities Conference," starting Thursday, Nov. 1, at Zhejiang University, which is in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, about 110 miles southwest of Shanghai. The Worldwide Universities Network is an invitation-only, nonprofit group of universities from Australia, Canada, China, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the U.S. joining together to promote collaboration and research. The theme of this year's conference is "The Changing Roles of University in Social and Economic Development."
Organizers asked Gonzalez to speak about issues of quality in higher education. His presentation scheduled for Friday is titled "The Quest for Quality at Top Performing Research Universities: Why Money Matters." Gonzalez is on the advisory board for the Center for Measuring University Performance, an organization that issues an annual report that provides data and analysis of top American research university performance.
"The Center has consistently found that the one thing the highest performing American universities share is the resource base that allows them to compete effectively for faculty, which is the engine of quality at universities," Gonzalez said. "So the ability to generate money that allows them to compete successfully for grants and other types of research, and to recruit high-quality students to work with faculty, is the key to university competitiveness, which then translates into a high-quality institutional environment."
Gonzalez said the formal expansion of the Zhejiang University partnership will provide continuing benefits to Indiana University faculty, staff and students in a time when internationalization in higher education is critical.
"It's important to create the conditions that allow our graduates to be effective in the 21st-century economy," he said. "Because of globalization, a student's education is not complete unless they get an education with exposure to different cultures. The best way to achieve that is to provide opportunities for students to study abroad and bring international students to our campus to foster interaction."
As a part of the agreement, Zhejiang can send up to five faculty members to IU for up to a year. One or two IU faculty can stay at Zhejiang on short-term visits. There will be exchanges of undergraduate students between the institutions as well as additional support for visiting international students from China.
"We're also exploring the possibility of collaborating in the preparation of doctoral students so they can complete research in their host country as well as take online courses and benefit from joint research," Gonzalez said.
Yuantao Sun, an assistant professor in education policy at the College of Education at Zhejiang University, has spent the past year in Bloomington, taking a variety of IU School of Education courses.
"I really think it will be good for my classes when I go back to China," Sun said.
Enhancing the Zhejiang instruction is one of the reasons for the partnership. "For us, our goal is to improve our scholar and student exchange," Sun said.
He added that the College of Education at Zhejiang, considered one of the top five education institutions in China, hoped to strengthen itself through a strong international partnership. Given an already long relationship, formalizing a partnership with Indiana University made sense.
The expanded relationship builds on the work IU School of Education faculty have done in China and regarding Chinese educational matters. Heidi Ross, professor of educational policy studies and comparative education, received Indiana University's John W. Ryan Award for Distinguished Contributions to International Programs and Studies in part for her voluminous research on Chinese education.
Ross, director of the East Asian Studies Center at IU, has written extensively for China Yearbook in Education, International Journal of Chinese Education, Journal of Asian Studies and Chinese Research Perspectives on Educational Development. She has especially examined marginalized populations and her work has especially benefitted hundreds of girls in the Shaanxi Province of China, providing them with scholarships to continue their education. She will also be presenting at the Worldwide Universities Network conference in Hangzhou.
Aside from the School of Education's partnership, Zhejiang University and IU have partnered in other areas for several years. IU signed an agreement with the Guanghua School of Law at Zhejiang University to begin exchanges of law students and faculty in 2007.