Building a future with China

Reading Time: 3 minutes Strategic China Initiative continues efforts to align community interest with university goals

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Nearly one year after Utah Valley University was selected as one of ten U.S. universities to partner with China in the International Academic Partnership Program, students and faculty are already reaping the rewards of their study of the Chinese language and culture.


The IAPP, which helps partner higher education institutions in the U.S. and abroad, works in conjunction with the UVU Strategic China Initiative to foster relationships with China in multiple areas. The initiative itself is one of President Holland’s seven presidential initiatives, and faculty and administration continue to make gains toward its goal of educating students of China’s culture, language, political systems and business practices.

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In fall 2012 alone, two new minors in Chinese education were introduced: a minor in Chinese Studies and a minor in Chinese Language. Additionally, curriculum is in development for a Chinese Commerce minor.


Landon Thalman, an international business major and Chinese language minor, recognized the initiative’s potential after returning from an LDS mission where he spoke Chinese in Arcadia, California.


“There is a lot of push for the Chinese language around campus, but there are a lot of opportunities for international business students in general,” Thalman said. “You learn how to be adaptable in a global market and how to be aware of being adaptable.”


Now with four Chinese language courses behind him, Thalman is interested in pursuing a career in developing and implementing Chinese language policies in higher education.


Though the Strategic China Initiative may seem complex, it can be broken down into four main areas of focus: education, business, computing and technology, and humanities and social sciences.


Dr. Frederick White, chair of the China Initiative Executive Committee, said the education portion of the initiative is farthest behind because it has the most hurdles to overcome. One of these hurdles is obtaining a dual-immersion license for the university, which would allow students who speak both Chinese and English to teach in elementary and secondary schools.


To teach Chinese in Utah high schools, a bachelor’s degree in Chinese Language is required, which is not currently offered at UVU. This degree has become a priority for the university, and the executive committee is working toward offering the degree in the future.


“The point of all this is that it’s a bottom-up process,” Dr. White said. “We usually wait and realize that there’s external pressures to add this kind of major. We have been percolating these kinds of courses and there’s people that want to take them . . . Because this was a presidential mandate, we’re really aiming towards getting all these kids that are in dual immersion who are in third and fourth grade right now. We want to be ready when these kids show up at UVU on our doorstep.”


In 2008, the International Initiatives Bill was approved by the Utah senate, allowing funds to be allocated for dual-immersion programs teaching Chinese, French and Spanish to children grades K-12. The bill was designed to address the future demands for secondary language skills in an increasingly competitive job market.


Brian Birch, associate vice president for academic affairs, said it was about four years ago that President Holland met with approximately 30 local business leaders and asked what they thought the university could be doing more of along the economic development front. One of the most prominent suggestions was doing business with China.


“The kinds of industries that are prominent here [in Utah] hold a lot of promise in the Chinese market,” Birch said. “Nutraceuticals is one area, computer science and engineering and other IT-related fields have potential, and just the fact that China is not only an emerging economic market, but an increasingly important player on the global stage in terms of politics and culture. We thought it was important for our students to understand that better.”


Professor Alex Yuan, the Chinese Language Coordinator at UVU, came to the university in 2010 after learning about President Holland’s move toward aligning the community’s interest with China and the goals of the university.


“The administrators here understand that the Chinese language is a skill for our students to become global professionals for a global world,” Yuan said. “We try to work and realize President Holland’s vision. The vision is trying to help our students get a strong Chinese background in terms of language, in terms of other issues too, so they can understand China and use the Chinese language skillfully.”