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[viewpoints.iu.edu] A tale of two universities, shared values and passions

Last updated :2016-01-25

Source: viewpoints.iu.edu/iupui-intelligence/2016/01/19/a-tale-of-two-universities-shared-values-and-passions/
By Diane Brown, IU Communications Specialist

"It was a phenomenal trip, better than I imagined it would be,” said IUPUI Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Zeb Davenport.

He was referring to a late-December visit to Sun Yat-Sen University, IUPUI’s strategic university partner in Guangdong, China.

Coming from a student affairs professional known nationally for his expertise in creating out-of-classroom experiences that are culturally responsive and engaging for students, Davenport’s words say a lot about the trip’s success.

The vice chancellor visited China to both learn from and assist student affairs personnel at Sun Yat-Sen, a public university of about 22,000 undergraduate and 14,000 graduate students. The visit included time spent with Sun Yat-Sen student leaders as well.

IUPUI administrators Sara Dickey, Aaron Hart, Joseph Hayes and Sandra Lemons accompanied Davenport.

The trip was also a quick visit home for Zhao Jing, a visiting scholar from Sun Yat-Sen, who will be completing a yearlong assignment at IUPUI in February.

The consensus observation of the IUPUI campus leaders was that helping students outside the classroom is the same whether you are in America or halfway across the world.

"Other than obvious cultural differences, I found the students of SYSU to be very similar to the students of IUPUI,” Davenport said. “Students at SYSU are surprisingly very engaged. They are vocal and challenge the establishment more than I expected.”

Sun Yat-Sen’s food services got high marks from the IUPUI administrators.

"Having lived in China before, I can tell you that the cafeteria food is good old home-cooking, and there is a great deal of variety. It was also extremely cheap, even by Chinese standards,” said Lemons, director of international student services in the IUPUI Office of International Affairs. “It was wonderful.”

The high volume and number of students socializing and eating in the SYSU cafeteria impressed Hart, IUPUI’s director of housing and residence life.

"There were very few empty seats, and students were engaged in group conversations around the dining tables,” he said.

Therein lies something that American universities can learn from Sun Yat-Sen, according to Zhao.

"First, all students at SYSU must live on campus, so they are more involved, ” she said. “Second, there is not a student who leaves the university because of a problem with financial assistance.”

If he could, Davenport said, he would take SYSU’s philosophy of housing all students on campus and providing full financial assistance for those in need and put it into practice at IUPUI.

School spirit is alive and well at the Chinese campus, although it might appear otherwise to the uninformed.

"I did not see outward exhibitions of school pride like you might see at a U.S. university,” Lemons said. “But the students I had a chance to speak to seemed to exhibit a strong internal sense of pride about their school.”

Zhao said SYSU student leaders are well-versed in the significance of the school motto: “Study extensively, inquire accurately, reflect carefully, discriminate clearly, practice earnestly.”

Student leaders on both campus are “idealistic, looking toward a brighter future, determined, and under pressure to succeed,” Hayes, director of the IUPUI Campus Center, said.

SYSU is known for its student leadership program, which annually serves 100 students, providing resources such as special lectures, the opportunity to attend an overseas study trip and volunteer service trips, Zhao said.

This year’s program included a training session facilitated by the IUPUI visitors.

"The students we met were excellent,” said Dickey, IUPUI assistant director for residence life. “They have many similarities to our student leaders: They are committed to their academics, have a strong sense of their personal values, and want to make a difference on their campus. Their energy and enthusiasm made that day my favorite of the trip!”