This could be the start of a long-term international relationship. Both Case Western Reserve University and Tianjin University hope so.
Case Western Reserve has welcomed Tianjin University President Gong Ke for the signing of an agreement encouraging exchange of students between the two institutions beginning in the summer semester of 2010.
The agreement is likely to be the first formal step toward greater collaboration between Case Western Reserve and Tianjin, one of China's important national universities, particularly in engineering.
Representatives of both institutions met inside Case Western Reserve's Adelbert Hall to sign the agreement Thursday, enhancing their international scope.
Associate Provost for International Affairs David Fleshler and Norman Tien, dean of Case School of Engineering, concentrated on developing ties with Tianjin. Both visited a month ago, seeking to formalize a connection dating back about five years. Some Tianjin students have been working on their graduate degrees at Case Western Reserve.
"We would like to get to the point where we are in more serious engagement in academics and research programs. We strive for this in order to provide opportunities for a stronger international experience for our students," Tien said.
The city of Tianjin, as well as the university, are also trying to build international business relationships and are interested in accomplishing that goal in Ohio, Fleshler said. For example, he said, emerging possibilities in wind energy are of particular interest.
"The goal of developing a deep relationship with any institution or university requires building one which ultimately will endure," Fleshler said.
International partnerships are at the forefront of Tianjin University's agenda, having established close links with institutions in many nations to enhance students' global perspectives and facilitate joint research collaboration.
Tianjin, a multidisciplinary research university, was the first modern university in China. It was established in 1895 originally as Peiyang University. It is under the administration of the national Ministry of Education of China.
"We have signed more that 150 agreements with universities around the world," Tianjin's President Gong said. "Now we try to focus on universities when the match is special, as key-partner universities."
Tianjin believes Case Western Reserve University can be such a match.
"We really share a lot of common interests in research, in education, in institutional reform," he said.
Gong said his own life experiences when he was a graduate student outside of China in Europe were enormously valuable to him.
"It opened my eyes," he said. "It helped me to define myself more clearly. So we really try to help Tianjin University students to get experience at overseas universities and to think differently. We can learn from each other and share the strength of each other. "
The signed agreement says the exchange will first take place between engineering schools at both universities. Opportunities for internships, team projects and research projects may be available under the guidance of the host institution's faculty and staff.
The number of students participating has not yet been determined. That number will be decided each year. Students enrolled at Case Western Reserve are eligible to participate during the summer semester. Students will be selected based on an application and interview.
The program will run for five weeks. Students will pay a fee to their home university for participation.
Along with Gong, Tien and Fleshler, those present at the agreement signing were officials and faculty from both universities.
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