Chinese students get glimpse of daily life on 'mother' FHSU campus

SNU Students

06/25/15 local
By Diane Gasper-O'Brien
What does Fort Hays State University have in common with Ivy League schools?

For students at Shenyang Normal University in Shenyang, China, FHSU is on the same wish list as places of destination to visit, along with schools such as Harvard, Columbia and MIT.

Twenty-one students from NSU who are earning a dual degree through their university and Fort Hays State visited the Hays campus last week.

Cindy Elliott, assistant provost for strategic partnership and dean of distance learning at FHSU, said their goals for the visit were threefold: 1) for the Chinese students to experience American culture; 2) for them to meet their professors in person; and 3) as a recruiting tool for FHSU.

"The opportunity for us is that possibly these students, when they graduate with their bachelor's degree, they might return to the Fort Hays State campus as a graduate student," Elliott said.

Shenyang graduates also have the opportunity to attend Fort Hays State on a one-year exchange program.

"It did serve as a good recruiting service," said Phil Wittkorn, director of operations for Chinese partnerships at FHSU. "A number of them said they want to come here their junior year."

A popular piece of the partnership between Fort Hays State and Shenyang Normal is the opportunity for the SNU students to attend school in America, at their "mother'" school in their junior year.

Several of their tours around town last week coincided with pre-tour presentations by campus personnel and community members.

Dr. Mark Bannister, professor of informatics and Dean of the College of Business and Entrepreneurship, gave a presentation on wind energy and then took the students to visit a local wind farm.

Dr. John Greathouse, associate professor of agriculture and chair of the department, gave the students a tour of the university farm. Dr. LeAnn Brown, assistant professor of management and marketing, talked to them about human resources issues.

Brett Whitaker, instructor of leadership studies and international coordinator, Seth Kastle, instructor of leadership studies, and Dr. Jill Arensdorf, associate professor of leadership studies and chair of the department, facilitated sessions on cultural intelligence using a research based assessment and gave SNU leadership students an opportunity to present final strategic plans from their leadership class this spring.

Representatives from FHSU also took the Chinese students to an American baseball game, featuring the Hays Larks, the local collegiate summer team.

Henry Schwaller IV, instructor of management and marketing, talked to the students about entrepreneurship, then took them to City Hall and for a tour of Gella's Diner & Lb. Brewing Co. in downtown Hays. Likewise, Dr. Greg Farley, professor of biological sciences and chair of the department, took them on to the Kansas Wetlands Education Center in Barton County.

A day before the students toured the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka, they attended a presentation on governmental affairs by Dr. Shala Mills, professor of political science and chair of the department.

They met Hays sculptor Pete Felten on Thursday, and the following day got to see Felten's limestone sculptures of four famous Kansans in the rotunda of the State Capitol. Wittkorn said the students didn't realize the significance of the statues until he told them they had met the sculptor the day before.

"Then it was, 'Oh, wow, he must be famous!' " Wittkorn said.

While in Hays, the Chinese contingent visited FHSU's Sternberg Museum of Natural History, home of the world famous Fish-Within-In-A-Fish exhibit, and swam at Hays Aquatic Park.

"We wanted it to be a total experience of the American culture," Elliott said. Part of that, she added, was a must-do trip to Walmart, where they loaded up on Fort Hays State memorabilia, including T-shirts and caps.

"Oh, yes," Elliott said, "they loved Walmart."

From Topeka, the Chinese students traveled to Kansas City, where they enjoyed Oceans of Fun and Worlds of Fun before boarding a plane to see all the sights in the Washington, D.C. area, as well as visiting Boston and New York City -- and Ivy League schools.

Cutline: Students from Shenyang Normal University, Shenyang, China -- one of Fort Hays State University's main partners in China -- check out an exhibit at FHSU's Sternberg Museum of Natural History during a visit to Hays in June.

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