KEAN UNIVERSITY MARKS A ‘LIFE-CHANGING’ MOMENT AS CHINA CAMPUS Takes BIg Step Forward
UNION TOWNSHIP, N.J. – Kean University’s plans to open a full-scale American campus in Wenzhou, China earned another key approval, President Dawood Farahi announced today, further paving the way for generations of New Jersey students to participate in a truly global college experience.
The Executive Committee for Substantive Change of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education at its March meeting approved Kean's application for an additional location in Wenzhou, China. A Commission site visit team will travel to Wenzhou-Kean within six months to confirm the Commission’s decision, a standard protocol when an institution seeks accreditation for its first international location.
“In our knowledge-based economy, we must prepare students to think, share and innovate far beyond national borders. Our groundbreaking initiative in Wenzhou will do just that by facilitating both an educational and a cultural exchange between two of the world’s most powerful nations,” Dr. Farahi said. “We are delighted the Commission supported our efforts, and I look forward to sharing the experience and the opportunities with the site team chosen to travel to Wenzhou.”
Already more than 200 Chinese students are enrolled in the Wenzhou-Kean pilot program and dozens of Kean University students, faculty and staff have traveled to China to pursue their studies and research, and to assist in establishing the new campus structure.
“This is an historic moment,” President Farahi added. “Our students now have the benefit of studying abroad, in the midst of the world’s fastest-growing economy. Our rigorous curriculum in China, conducted in English, is designed to prepare students for the globalized economy and culture of the 21st Century.”
Kean University is one of only a few American universities approved by the Chinese government to build a full-scale American campus in their country. Building a campus in Wenzhou, a city in the prosperous and growing Zhejiang Province, will give Kean a powerful presence in the world’s second largest economy and help transform the next generation of relations between New Jersey and China, and perhaps the U.S. and China.
U.S. Consul General in Shanghai Robert Griffith called the Wenzhou-Kean initiative “life-changing” for the University, for New Jersey, for the United States and for China.
“I firmly believe that the educational initiatives such as the one joining Wenzhou University and Kean University can have the same kind of life-changing impact on our bilateral relations for the next generation as the Nixon trip did for the generation that is leading our two countries today,” Griffith said during the groundbreaking ceremony.
Mr. Griffith’s remarks echoed those of the Honorable Xi Jinping, president of China, who visited Kean University in May 2006 and witnessed the signing of the agreement between Wenzhou and Kean University that ultimately led to the creation of Wenzhou-Kean University. At the time, Mr. Xi spoke of how important it was to bring high-quality higher education to the Zhejiang Province, particularly to Wenzhou.
“The footsteps of the Wenzhou people have spread all around China and now across the whole world. Wherever there are seas, there are Wenzhou people,” Mr. Xi said at the signing ceremony. “Wenzhou people are wealthy in materials but inadequate in education, especially higher education….But you come just in time and provide the education the Wenzhou people have been longing for.”
Mr. Xi was party secretary of Zhejiang Province during the signing ceremony. Today, he is the president of China.
The Wenzhou Kean program was developed to maintain and build upon Kean’s mission of providing affordable education to a diverse population, and in an environment in which students, faculty and staff gain a broader and more enriching experience as a result of that diversity, and in preparing students to think critically, creatively and globally. Kean University has been ranked as one of the nation’s top five most diverse universities by DiversityInc., and boasts one of the lowest tuition rates among New Jersey’s nine comparable universities.
In New Jersey, the project enjoys bipartisan support from state lawmakers who together seen both the economic and educational benefits of operating a university in one of China’s most prosperous provinces.
Governor Chris Christie helped push the project forward in July 2011 during a visit with Zhejiang Party Secretary Zhao Hongzhu, noted Dr. Farahi. Governor Christie hosted a luncheon at Kean University as part of the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Sister State/Province agreement between New Jersey and Zhejiang. The events of that day and discussions between Governor Christie and Secretary Zhao had a major impact on moving the campus project forward, Secretary Zhao reported immediately after the meetings.
Governor Christie later said: “Listen, Kean University is such an important part of the higher education community in our state. It provides such a great magnet for people to come to New Jersey. Not only from around the country, but from around the world.”
Richard Bagger, former Chief of Staff to Governor Christie and Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Strategic Market Access for Celgene Corp., said the recent approval by Middle States moves a critical New Jersey initiative another step forward.
“Kean University’s new higher education partnership in Wenzhou not only creates new and exciting opportunities for students, it also further strengthens New Jersey’s important economic ties with Zhejiang Province,” said Mr. Bagger, who serves as a member of the Wenzhou-Kean Advisory Board of Trustees. “The benefits are far reaching and long term, and I am proud to be part of it.”
New Jersey State Senator Raymond J. Lesniak of Elizabeth, whose district includes Kean University, said the China campus initiative is another step forward in Kean’s efforts to transform public higher education efficiently and effectively.
“In today’s global economy, President Farahi does more than just develop ideas for international education, he delivers on it,” Senator Lesniak said. “The new Kean campus in China will take public higher education in New Jersey a huge step forward; it can serve as a catalyst for developing the kind of economic ties needed to boost our economy.”
New Jersey State Senator Thomas Kean of Westfield lauded the University for its efforts in advancing both higher education in the state, as well as the relationship between China and the United States.
"Today's global economy requires us to educate students from an international point of view. Kean's initiative in China takes higher education in New Jersey a huge leap forward, and no doubt its success will help strengthen New Jersey's economic relationship with Zhejiang and the entire Chinese nation," Senator Kean said.
Ambassador Clifford Sobel said, “It is auspicious that in a time of growing internationalization, Kean is fortunate enough to have developed a partnership with the leaders of Zhejiang Province and Wenzhou University, and it will be our students in both the United States and in China that will benefit most from this partnership."
“The new campus in Wenzhou is a huge step along Kean’s path to provide global educational opportunities to its students. The enriching experience of studying abroad has long been available for the wealthy. Wenzhou-Kean will make that experience possible for all Kean students. I am delighted to help make that happen," said Anne Evans Estabrook, CEO of Elberon and Wenzhou-Kean board member.
Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick of Westfield said the Wenzhou Kean initiative reflects Dr. Farahi’s commitment to provide world-class education in New Jersey in a cost-effective manner.
“Kean University is breaking new ground in China, and New Jersey students will certainly be the beneficiaries,” Assemblyman Bramnick said. “We continue to ask leaders in public higher education in New Jersey to be innovative, and to identify ways to be more efficient and effective. Dr. Farahi at Kean is doing just that, and the campus in China is a perfect example.”
Former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey, who played a key role initially in helping to develop the University’s relationship with Zhejiang, said the recent approvals from Middle States are a welcome sign that the higher education recognizes the value of such initiatives in China.
"Wenzhou-Kean represents a unique partnership between two great nations and universities. The campus will educate many of China's sons and daughters; yet, it will be a portal of understanding and learning for American students as well,” McGreevey said. “The Chinese have historically greatly valued education, this joint initiative will enhance that revered tradition."
Many Kean students who already travelled to China said they never dreamed they would have a chance to visit this historic nation. They strongly encourage current and future students to take advantage of the opportunity.
“My experience in China I can honestly say was a life-changing experience,” said Kean Junior Mario Fernandez. “It was an incredible opportunity to do something I don’t think I ever dreamed of.”
Roselena Twyne, a Kean Senior, said her trip to China and her work with students enrolled in Wenzhou-Kean changed her perspective on the world forever.
“What I’ve learned from this experience is there is so much diversity across the world…Out of all the opportunities I have ever been given, this is by far the most wonderful one. And for Kean to put a student as myself all the way on the other side of the world is wonderful. I am very proud of Kean and I am a proud Kean student,” Twyne said.
Robert Lerner, president of Student Organization at Kean University, said his trip to China to work with new Wenzhou-Kean students helped him recognize how eager the Chinese are to participate in the American education system.
“They’re just a great group of students,” he said, “highly motivated and really just wanting to get involved and make the most of their new college experience.”
Dr. William Eaton, executive director of Kean’s School of Environmental and Life Sciences, said the China campus is creating a bond between two cultures in ways he never imagined.
“One of the things that particularly impressed me was how happy and content the students seemed to be. When I was walking down the hall at Wenzhou Kean, the students looked me right in the eyes, smiled and just showed such an appreciation for where they were and what they were a part of,” Dr. Eaton said. “They seemed just so welcome and grateful for the opportunity to be Kean community members together. I really got the sense that both the Chinese and American participants will be infused with a special inspiration from each other. As an educator, this is extremely exciting.”
When completed, the campus will encompass more than 200 acres in the extraordinary countryside near Wenzhou. Some 5,000 full-time students will study on the new campus by the fall of 2016. All classes will be taught in English by American professors, and students will earn degrees issued by Kean University. Kean University will supply all academic personnel, programs and course materials; Wenzhou is responsible for construction of the new campus and supporting all operations. Dr. Farahi noted that this project supports Kean’s efforts both in the U.S. and abroad. He also emphasized that all costs for construction and operation of the new campus will be borne by the Chinese government.
“The future of Kean depends upon providing world-class education at affordable cost. Wenzhou Kean University will provide our students with such an opportunity,” Dr. Farahi said. “We cannot continue doing business as usual. Success requires that we become innovative, creative and entreprenurial. We are doing this with Wenzhou Kean; it is not merely change but transformation.”
The project also means that Kean University can give its students a unique advantage as they prepare for their future careers. China is not only the world’s fastest growing economy; it is now the world’s largest exporter. Nevertheless, for many college students in the U.S., China remains a mystery. Now, not only will Kean provide students with both cultural and educational opportunities to learn in China among Chinese students, but it also will educate the next generation of Chinese leaders alongside young Americans. No doubt these experiences will distinguish Kean graduates as they seek future employment. Indeed, they will be uniquely prepared to assist New Jersey companies in efforts to forge international agreements with partners in China; better able to envision global opportunities for their employers; astutely prepared to impart a broader appreciation of different cultures to those they serve in whatever fields of work they pursue.
Mr. John Kean, a Wenzhou-Kean Advisory Board Member and former New Jersey business leader, called the Wenzhou-Kean initiative a “unique experience both for students in China and students in the United States, and I am proud that Kean University is on the forefront of creating these opportunities.”
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