A new agreement between Middle Tennessee State University and a Chinese science university signed Thursday (May 12) allowed President Sidney A. McPhee to renew an old friendship.
The pact with Zhejiang University of Science and Technology allows MTSU to begin discussions about student exchanges, joint faculty research and degree programs to help boost international enrollment on the Murfreesboro campus.
It also allowed McPhee to catch up with ZUST President Ye Gaoxiang, who led Hangzhou Normal University in 2009 when it helped MTSU create its Confucius Institute. Ye joined ZUST in 2013.
McPhee also lectured to ZUST students interested in studying in the U.S. and Ye held a dinner at his residence for the MTSU president.
“It is my great pleasure to again partner with President Ye on what could be the beginning of a fantastic relationship between our universities,” McPhee said.
“President Ye has been on our campus many times, lectured to our students and stayed in my home. It is wonderful to be reunited with him.”
Ye honored McPhee by wearing a True Blue tie with a pattern of MTSU logos.
“My good friend, President McPhee,” exclaimed Ye in English, when he walked into the signing ceremony.
ZUST, founded in 1980, has an enrollment of more than 16,000 students. It has 10 bachelor’s degree and four master’s degree programs, focusing primarily on sciences, engineering, economics, marketing and digital media.
Ye said Zhejiang places a priority on scientific research, boasting a variety of institutes, including automation engineering and structural engineering, which aligns well with MTSU’s programs on mechatronics and concrete industry management.
ZUST boasts an international population of about 1,000 students from more than 100 countries. Its primary international ties are with Germany, with 25 partner institutions in that country. It ranks No. 2 in China among universities with ties to Germany.
However, during a presentation to McPhee and his delegation, ZUST officials made clear that they are eager to establish ties with American institutions. Of note was MTSU’s new $147 million Science Building, which opened in October 2014.
“We know you have a great relationship with Hangzhou Normal,” said ZUST Vice President Yougu Zheng. “We hope we can establish similar ties with our university.
“I think we need to select some excellent students to come and study at MTSU.”
Ye said he hoped McPhee would give ZUST students some encouragement about studying abroad, particularly at MTSU.
“You will find our students are excellent,” Ye said. “More and more students are going to study in the United States. Please give them good suggestions.”
“Don’t worry,” McPhee said. “I will.”
McPhee’s visit to China will include stops at several partner institutions, as well as a lecture in Nanning to present MTSU’s ongoing research on the study of traditional Chinese herbs for medicinal purposes.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, McPhee met with officials from Dongcheng Educational Group in Hangzhou to discuss plans for a July trip to China by Rutherford County schoolchildren, teachers and administrators. It will be the third such overseas trip that McPhee and his wife, Elizabeth, will have coordinated.
“What makes these trips different is that they are not vacations,” McPhee said to Dongcheng Board Chairman Lin Zhengfan. “While we get to experience the culture, the majority of our time is spent in classrooms, so that students and teachers from both countries learn from each other.”
Lin also introduced McPhee to about 30 Chinese schoolchildren who will visit the Murfreesboro campus for English-language immersion training in July and Augus