This summer, SVSU students will get a chance to take classes abroad without leaving campus.
Two classes taught by faculty from Ming Chuan University, the only U.S.-accredited university in Asia, will be offered on the SVSU campus for the first time in July, free of charge for SVSU students.
The classes, which will be taught by English-speaking professors from the Taiwanese school, will allow SVSU students to study with students from Ming Chuan who will travel to the United States to take classes for credit while being immersed in American culture.
Startup Business Chinese will offer an introduction to the fundamentals of Mandarin Chinese, especially suitable for learners who want to do business or work in Chinese-speaking countries. In the five-week intensive training course, students will learn pronunciation, grammar and Chinese characters, with emphasis on the basic language skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing.
Introduction to Chinese Literature will cover four traditional genres of Chinese literature at an advanced level: Han and T’ang poetry, Yuan drama, the philosophical prose of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu and the prose romance of the T’ang dynasty. The five-week course will enable students to understand and enjoy the works, developing cultural awareness and sensitivity by looking through Chinese authors’ eyes.
Beginning in late June, both classes will meet three times per week and will be offered free of charge for as many SVSU students who want to attend.
“They’re welcome to sit in on a class, to audit, or to take the whole course,” said Robert Yien, who served as the vice president of academic affairs for SVSU for more than 20 years and now holds that same title at Ming Chuan. “We’d like to have as many students as are interested in this. If we have more than a reasonably sized class, then we will split into two or three.”
The classes are being offered at SVSU this summer as a test run for a larger collaborative program between the two universities that would begin next spring.
“We’re looking forward to working with our sister University, Ming Chuan …” President Eric Gilbertson said. “We hope that this will be a long and successful relationship that will enable our domestic students to have even greater contact and friendship with students from Asian nations.”
Yien said that this collaboration has been in the works for several years.
“About two years ago, President Gilbertson and President Lee (Chuan of Ming Chuan) started to talk about a joint venture, about bringing students here, taking courses from Ming Chuan,” Yien said. “In the meantime, those students could co-enroll at SVSU.
“The students coming from Ming Chuan would be coming from a U.S.-accredited institution, where they could complete their undergraduate studies. That’s the part that both presidents are very excited about.”
During this summer’s test run, 45 to 60 Ming Chuan students will come to study on SVSU’s campus. After they return to Taiwan, their feedback would go toward the planning of next year’s official program.
“We’re going to find out from Ming Chuan students about their lives on the SVSU campus after they go back,” Yien said. “We’re going to review their comments and then prepare for the real start, which would be next spring.”
The program would begin with at least four courses in two different programs, international business and teaching Chinese as a second language. Students from Ming Chuan would come to SVSU to take classes abroad, and SVSU students would also be able to take those same classes for credit.
“When SVSU students enroll in the course, they will pay tuition to SVSU, and credit hours will be acceptable to SVSU because we are an accredited university,” Yien said. “I’m very excited because no one has done this before.”
No one has done this before because Ming Chuan is the first Asian school to achieve United States-accreditation, a process which Yien facilitated after retiring from SVSU in March 2007.
For Ming Chuan students, the collaboration provides an opportunity to take classes from their home university while co-enrolling in SVSU courses at the same time, with those credits also transferring back to Ming Chuan.
“Overseas, in China and Taiwan, there is a new concept of offering courses away from the home campus,” Yien said. “It gives them the experience of being immersed in a different culture, rubbing shoulders with students from another country.”
Yien said that he hopes to have SVSU professors participate in the program, as well.
“My goal is to have courses team-taught by SVSU faculty and Ming Chuan faculty,” he said. “That will really encourage SVSU students to enroll.”
Although this program would be the first of its kind, it is not Yien’s first experience with facilitating contact between students from SVSU and Asia.
Yien became SVSU’s vice president for academic affairs in 1978, and was the first person to suggest that an overseas trip to Asia be included in the Roberts Fellowship Program, an elite leadership seminar for SVSU students formed in large part from a generous donation by Donna Roberts, former head of Dow Chemical Co.’s legal department and secretary to the Dow CEO.
“I said, ‘If this program is preparing young people for a leadership role in any field, I think it is a very important thing that they should have a chance to observe abroad even for just a short while,” Yien said. “You can go to Europe any time, but when you go to Asia, you have to have some reason.”
A visit to Ming Chuan University is included in the three-week trip that all Roberts Fellows make each May.
Yien said that he believes it is important for young Americans to visit Asia for professional reasons.
“The rising of Asian countries really makes the competition very keen for the United States, especially for the young people,” he said. “The earlier the young people in the United States get to know what kind of competition is ahead of them and who their real competitors are, that’s very important.”
This summer’s test run program will also reach to the youth of the Great Lakes Bay Region, as well. Ming Chuan will also host a “Dance and Sing” Mandarin Chinese Summer camp on the SVSU campus for seventh through eleventh graders interested in learning Mandarin Chinese.
Students interested in signing up for Startup Business Chinese or Introduction to Chinese Literature can contact Robert Yien starting May 10 at email@example.com.