By Colter Hettich, Features Editor
Several international cultures have found a niche at ACU. Annual, sold-out shows that demonstrate aspects of those cultures testify to the community’s openness and receptivity. ACU’s reputation for diversity continues to spread, most recently to the People’s Republic of China. At least a few Chinese students will attend ACU next semester, launching an effort to draw Chinese students to the hill. Dr. Jeanine Varner, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said the university hopes to enroll 25-50 graduate and undergraduate students.
“We are actively working with our contacts in China to select and interview students,” said Dr. John Tyson, vice president of development. “I think it may take a couple of years for it to really develop, but I think we have some things that individuals in China are looking for.”
Individuals in China, who read about ACU students from Madagascar, contacted the university in 2005 and expressed interest in sending students to Abilene. In response, a small group of ACU representatives, including Tyson; Stephen Gist, admissions representative for international students; and Dr. Dwayne VanRheenen, former provost, traveled to China in July 2006. They visited six major universities in three cities. After their return, Tyson seized an opportunity to speak with a visiting Chinese official in Houston. Over lunch, Tyson shared the university’s mission with Ye Xiao Wen, director general for the state administration of religious affairs in the People’s Republic of China.
The correspondence did not stop there. In September 2008, a group traveled to China, followed by a third group in January 2009, this time including Dr. Carol Williams, dean of ACU’s graduate school, and Dr. Tim Coburn, professor of management sciences and statistics. A fourth group will leave for China within the next few weeks.
Several curricular issues had to be resolved so the Chinese students could receive a diploma from ACU.
Two years ago, administrators approved ACU’s Masters degree in Global IT leadership program, the first step in the initiative. Varner said the program was designed for a group of Chinese students who expressed interest in that area. After successfully implementing the masters program, focus shifted to a second program, this time for undergraduates.
This program, dubbed “2+2,” would allow Chinese students to take their first two years of schooling at a Chinese university, then finish their degree at ACU. Students would graduate with two degrees – one from each university attended.
ACU hopes the red tape of bureaucracy will not keep the students from attending.