BEMIDJI – University students here will immediately reap the benefits of their faculty’s trip to China.
Bemidji State University students may now spend a semester in China for about the same tuition costs they would pay to stay in Bemidji.
“If you’re a student at BSU, you pay for 12-15 credit here, then you go abroad and you take those credits over there and (the universities there) don’t charge you for those credits,” said Martin Tadlock, BSU provost. “It will cost less than $500 (more) than what it would typically cost you to be here for a semester.”
Tadlock led an eight-member faculty team to China last month to meet with four universities to consider faculty- and student-exchange opportunities.
“Every one of the universities we met with … they are wanting their students to go abroad,” Tadlock said Thursday afternoon in a presentation on the BSU campus. “They’re just as interested in these opportunities as we are.”
A signed agreement is already in place with Weifang University through which BSU students and faculty could take part in exchange opportunities.
Already, music professor Del Lyren has finalized an exchange through which five members of Voltage, BSU’s electronic music ensemble, will spend a month this summer in China. They then will serve as hosts for visiting Chinese students the following year.
“This is just very exciting for our students,” said Colleen Greer, dean of the College of Arts and Science, during the presentation. “We are hoping to see more of these opportunities.”
BSU also has verbal agreements in place with three Chinese universities.
Tadlock said the goal is to offer 120 BSU students a semester the chance to go overseas at very minimal extra costs.
“We’re not interested if it’s going to cost our students another $2,000, $3,000 or $4,000,” he said. “That’s not what we’re about. It will not cost you hardly any more than if you stayed here for that semester.”
Likewise, Tadlock said, BSU is aiming to increase its number of international students from about 150 to 300.
Faculty, also, benefit from exchange opportunities offering during the school year and summertime. Another option would be serving as a co-researcher with a visiting Chinese professor. The Bemidji-based professor would mentor the visiting professor during his stay and later go to China to continue the research and experience Chinese culture.
“This is not taxpayer dollars,” Tadlock said of the new initiatives. “We have one-time money that we are using for some of it. Basically, this is being covered by the agreements, by the universities, that we are working with.”
Tadlock said that China, with its growing populations, has a strong economy and the country is heavily investing in higher education.
The president of Weifang University told him he is “only” getting a 12 percent budget increase this year.
“They are very actively engaged in educating a huge population of people and that takes a lot of resrouces,” Tadlock said, “and it provides opportunities for us.”
He noted the Bemidji community, as a whole, will benefit as well.
“It’s going to impact the city as well in very, very positive ways, economically, culturally, and just having what we consider to be … polite, ambitions, hard-working (students),” Tadlock said. “Those students are there for a very specific purpose and that’s to get an education. They’re dedicated to that.”