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Mathematics and Actuarial Science | University News | CHST

UCM Members’ Recent Visit to Hengshui University Key to Building Relationship with Institution Across the Globe

By Jeff Murphy, December 5, 2023


University of Central Missouri academic leaders Jeff Robertson (fourth from left), Laurel Hogue (seventh from left) and Phoebe McLaughlin (ninth from left) joined academic leaders, teachers and students at Hengshui University in China for the 2023 Fall Meeting between HSU and UCM.  (Photo courtesy of Hengshui University)

WARRENSBURG, MO – Placing a high value on preparing students to work in a global environment, a delegation of University of Central Missouri representatives traveled to China this fall to continue building upon UCM’s cooperative educational relationship with Hengshui University. Their visit took place at the same time a small number of HSU students are experiencing campus life in Warrensburg, Missouri, and as the university explores a possible visit from HSU education leaders in spring 2024.

The group of three UCM educators made the week-long trek to Hengshui City in the Hebei Province in mid-October to meet with approximately 175 students and visit with faculty members and administrators who are part of the 3+1 Cooperative Program in Mathematics and Applied Mathematics. This cooperative arrangement between HSU and UCM provides a seamless path to a bachelor’s degree by enabling students to complete their first three years of the program by taking courses in their home country, then finishing their final year at the partnering institution abroad. The degree awarded is from both HSU and UCM.
This program was approved by the Ministry of Education (MOE) of the People’s Republic of China for implementation in November 2021. The joint initiative was one of only a few that were chosen through a highly selective process that involved proposals from several other institutions across the globe.

“We applied for three different pathways, but Mathematics and Applied Mathematics was the only one that was approved by the Ministry of Education,” said Laurel Hogue, Ed.D., vice provost for online learning and engagement at UCM. “There were over 500 applications submitted that year, and we were one of only 24 that were approved.”

Once the agreement was ready for implementation, Hogue said UCM and HSU were eligible to recruit up to 100 students annually for each cohort, the first of which was established in fall 2022. The second cohort began in fall 2023.

Hogue said students in the 3+1 program’s first cohort will arrive at UCM during the fall 2025 semester, where they will spend their final year of the undergraduate degree program. These students are currently engaged in their sophomore year at HSU.

Phoebe McLaughlin, Ph.D., chair and professor in the Department of Mathematics, Actuarial Science, and Statistics, and Jeff Robertson, Ph.D., dean of the College of Health, Science and Technology, joined Hogue on the trip to China.

“This was a celebration of this program,” Robertson said in summarizing the group’s visit to HSU, an institution which in 2023 is observing its 100th anniversary.

Although UCM members were invited, but could not attend centennial festivities on Nov. 8, UCM President Roger Best provided a congratulatory letter that was publicly displayed during the celebration. Phil Bridgmon, provost and vice president for academic affairs, also offered his congratulations in a video that was presented to HSU representatives.

Robertson noted that there were various engagement opportunities related to the 3+1 program. The UCM group, for example, got to meet with Chinese students who are currently enrolled in this program and attend an awards ceremony that recognized their achievements.

“They had both cohorts of students – freshmen and sophomores – there, and they gave out awards to the sophomore cohort,” he said.

Such opportunities provided  face-to-face interaction which helped strengthen the bond between UCM and HSU, according to Hogue.

“Up until this point, we’ve basically had a relationship via Zoom. So, I’m very thankful for the opportunity to go over there and meet people in person,” she said, also adding that the hospitality the UCM delegation received from the Chinese hosts was “top-notch.”

During the trip to China, McLaughlin served as the group’s interpreter while it met with HSU President Shouzhong Wang, students and other leaders in formal and informal gatherings. Robertson praised her efforts to work in collaboration with faculty and administrators at UCM and HSU to implement the 3+1 program.

“Phoebe has built the tracks while riding on the train. She is a logistics and organizational wizard,” the dean said in describing her contributions to this program.

McLaughlin said a number of faculty members are currently using Zoom to deliver freshman and sophomore courses to students who are enrolled in the 3+1 program. Students and HSU co-teachers join the lecture in their classroom synchronously. UCM faculty sharing these responsibilities this academic year are Drs. Lianwen Wang, Nawaf Mohammed, Xiadong Yue, Nalin Fonseka, and Blaise Heider.

While the focus of the trip to China was on the 3+1 Cooperative Program in Mathematics and Applied Mathematics, this initiative spawned another program that was launched with a virtual signing in January 2022. The Memorandum of Understanding that was entered by HSU President Wang and UCM President Best created a 3+1+1 agreement which gives students from both institutions an opportunity to continue on their educational paths as graduate students the following year after earning their bachelor’s degrees. It also paves the way for faculty members to become lecturers on each campus.

At least five students from China are at UCM this fall planning to earn graduate degrees. Among them is Yumeng Zhen, who said she came here because of the 3+1+1 program. She grew up in Shijiazhuang City, which is about a two-hour drive from Hengshui City. During the summer of 2023, she finished her Bachelor of Arts in English at HSU.

“I took classes last fall (at UCM) as an undergraduate student. Then after my graduation, I also applied to the master degree program here at UCM. Currently, I’m taking three lecture classes and one hybrid class in the MSE-TESL program. I’m going to finish my degree here by December, 2024,” she said.

When Zhen first came to UCM, she said she was “attracted to the beautiful campus and well-equipped facilities.” Along the way, she also discovered how the university values diversity, which opened opportunities for her to participate in many multicultural events and meet people from different backgrounds. This carries over to the dining halls, where she appreciates having food choices representative of different cultures.

Another 3+1+1 student, Xingyue Yin, was born in Baoding, which is situated in the same province as HSU, where she earned a bachelor’s degree. Her experience with UCM began by taking online classes during her 2022 summer vacation. This led to her enrolling at Central Missouri the following fall semester. She is continuing her education this fall at UCM by taking three undergraduate courses and a graduate class.

“I applied for the accelerated program in Biology. Hopefully, I will graduate as an undergraduate student in the spring semester of 2024 and as a graduate student in the spring semester of 2025,” she stated.

Yin said she benefited by having a friend who was already on campus when she came to UCM.. While her friend helped her learn how to navigate in a new environment with different cultures, she also found a great source of assistance among the faculty members in her academic program.

“The professors I’ve met are very friendly, possess a strong knowledge base, and take good care of international students,” she noted. She added that faculty have helped her adapt to life in a new place.

“UCM has brought me many valuable experiences,” Yin stated. “I have seen a beautiful campus, experienced American culture, and made friends from all over the country.”

Looking to the future, both UCM and HSU are poised to explore opportunities to build upon their relationship. Faculty exchange opportunities and a possible visit by HSU leaders are likely on the horizon.


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