Dear members of the University community / Boozhoo / Aanii / Kwe kwe,
I am writing this blog having recently returned from Hangzhou, China where we celebrated on Saturday, June 18th the first 25 graduates from our unique Bachelor of Business Administration dual degree program with Zhejiang University of Finance and Economics (ZUFE). Top accounting students from the Province of Zhejiang (population: 55 million) are admitted to this highly competitive program where students earn two degrees – one from ZUFE and one from Laurentian. Students spend 12 months in Sudbury. We welcomed the first cohort in January 2015 and the second cohort in January 2016. I invite you to watch this video which describes this very successful collaborative effort.
This was my fourth visit at ZUFE in five years. In 2013, our men’s basketball team played at ZUFE. In 2015, ZUFE reciprocated by sending their swimming team to participate in a friendly international swimming competition that we organized at Laurentian along with the University of Waterloo and the University of Ottawa.
One of the ZUFE students who graduated on Saturday is Bob Jiahui Ma. I first met him when I spent time with this first cohort in Hangzhou in 2012, and again in 2013. I was amazed by his confidence and his improving mastery of the English language. We took a picture together in 2013. In late 2014, a few weeks before his arrival in Sudbury, he emailed me his picture as a reminder of our meeting (not that I needed it because I had been so impressed by our interactions!) and he asked to meet. I was pleased to welcome him and his classmates upon their arrival in snowy Sudbury on the Sunday before classes started in January 2015. We went for coffee a few times during his time here, he came to our annual Holiday Open House at 179 John Street and he managed to publish in peer-reviewed publications as a third-year undergraduate student. Bob earned top marks at Laurentian while being very involved on campus including as Vice-President of Laurentian’s Chinese Students and Scholars Association, he and his peers volunteered at the 10th annual edition of Sudbury ROCKS!!! and he initiated on his own trips to meet Chinese diplomatic officials in Toronto and Ottawa.
I know that Sudbury families hosted some of the ZUFE students for a Thanksgiving dinner in their own homes to have them experience Canadian traditions. Bob’s father spoke on behalf of the parents of graduates during what was a very moving convocation ceremony on Saturday, which was held in the presence of the Trade Commissioner at the Consulate General of Canada in Shangai, Joey Zhao. Bob begins a master’s program next month in international economics at Nanyang Technology University in Singapore.
ZUFE President Xiaomin Zhong and I were pleased to hold a signing ceremony on Saturday to renew the relationship between our institutions. This partnership and Bob’s experience remind me again how international students enrich our university community, the positive impact that cross-cultural education can have for graduates, how our students – whether from Canada or China – have a world of opportunities ahead of them, even more so if they are willing to get outside of their comfort zone and become engaged on campus and in the broader community.
During this short four-day visit, I also had very productive meetings with counterparts at ZUFE and at other partner institutions, with the Deputy Director General of International Cooperation and Exchanges at the Chinese Ministry of Education, and with the Secretary-General of the China Scholarship Council. These in-depth conversations will soon translate into new exciting collaborations and opportunities for Laurentian with regards to student mobility, faculty mobility and research.
For example, there was a keen interest in enabling Laurentian students to study for a term in programs delivered in English in Chinese universities, in our capacity to assist with regional economic development in Western China and with the development of future Chinese leaders working in international organizations thanks to our English and French-language programming, in ways to support top Chinese graduate students to enroll at Laurentian, in our efforts to become the undisputed global leader in mineral exploration research, on what Sudbury can teach China about air pollution and the global lessons from the Sudbury story in terms of environmental remediation. Finally, I had the pleasure of meeting very engaged alumni in Beijing who belong to our newest and third Chinese alumni chapter.
I look forward to welcoming in September the third cohort of ZUFE students, who I also had the opportunity to meet while in Hangzhou.