Harbin Exchange Moves Forward

Apr. 7, 2014

Harbin Exchange Moves Forward

ST. LOUIS, April 7, 2014 – Faculty and staff from Webster University traveled to Harbin University in China in early March to continue preparations for the student exchange agreement signed in 2013.

Harbin University students will study in Harbin during their first two years in that school’s undergraduate program. Credits earned during that time will transfer to Webster in the students' third year, where the students will complete their bachelor's degrees in Educational Studies. Upon completion, the students will each earn a double bachelor's degree, with one BA from Harbin and the other from Webster's School of Education. The arrangement is designed to help the students become fluent in the English language and learn teaching techniques used in the United States.   

DJ Kaiser, an assistant professor and coordinator of Teaching English as a Second Language in Webster’s School of Education, met with Harbin University administrators and professors.  Nelly Zhang and Rick Foristel from Webster China were also in Harbin for the meetings.

“I was able to sit down with administrators from Harbin University and get a better understanding of their programs and help generate ideas,” Kaiser said. “I observed two of their English education classes and also observed a middle school class in China so I can better understand what these students need to be prepared to do when they go back to China at the end of the exchange.”

Kaiser said English is a part of the national curriculum in China but very few educators have the opportunity to live in an English-speaking country.

Classroom in China

During his time in Harbin, Kaiser tested prospective students. Students interested in coming to Webster University for two years have to complete a reading and writing assessment, a listening assessment, an interview and complete a presentation.

“For the next step in the process, my colleagues and I have to go through the assessments and rate their English skills with the rubrics we’ve created,” said Kaiser.

In addition to the assessments, the School of Education is doing a great deal of work to ensure that this program is a success.

“We’re working on a bridge program so that those coming over will have a few weeks in a special intensive English program,” Kaiser said. “This will help address language, culture and also the content needs to help prepare them for their degree program in educational studies.”

Harbin University also plans to send a faculty member to St. Louis each semester. The faculty member will take graduate-level courses in the Teaching English as a Second Language program and could potentially have the opportunity observe K-12 classes in the St. Louis area.

Kaiser said the program is also beneficial to Webster University’s current students.

“Students here are going to have access to students from outside of the United States who have a different view on education and a different view on the purpose of learning a language,” said Kaiser. “When you realize that many people who are learning English will probably never go to the United States, Australia or the United Kingdom, it changes your whole perspective on what it means to learn a foreign language.”

Kaiser said the entire School of Education is working hard to iron out the details of the arrangement so that students within the next year. Beyond the degree requirements, they are coordinating with the Study Abroad office and the Confucius Institute to organize other details such as student visas, student finances, housing, faculty expectations and educational differences between the two countries. Despite the effort involved with the partnership, Kaiser believes arrangements like this are important.

“We are a global university and if we don’t do this, we’re not meeting our mission or goals,” he said. “If we can get this as a model that works, we can replicate this with other universities and other programs. I think the more partnerships we have, the stronger our university can be.”

Webster University operates programs in three other cities in China, including Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu. The Shanghai Joint MBA Program with Shanghai University of Finance and Economics has graduated more than 1,500 students from the program since its start in 1996. The Chengdu Joint MBA with University of Electronic Science and Technology China is 10 years old and is the only international non-Chinese language MBA program in all of west and southwest China.