In one photo of a brief ceremony documented on Twitter last week, Shanghai University’s President Jin Donghan is shown offering a gift to UT President Greg Fenves, a sign of goodwill between two universities now officially linked together.
An agreement was signed into effect last Tuesday by both presidents, a symbolic gesture that will cement the relationship between UT and Shanghai University.
Maria Arrellaga, executive director for global engagement, described the agreement as a signal of intent rather than immediate action.
“UT is a huge place,” Arrellaga said. “There’s always exchanges and collaborations going on. When you sign agreements, it’s a way to make it more official (by) saying, ‘We want to work together. We want to explore ways of expanding collaboration.’”
Unofficial partnerships with Shanghai University have been underway at the Moody College of Communication and the College of Natural Sciences for some time. For the last four summers, Barry Brummett, chair of the Department of Communication Studies, has taught a week-long course in a Shanghai University international program and is the honorary director for their center of rhetorical criticism.
“We have a number of visiting scholars from Shanghai University in this department,” Brummett said. “They’ll come to hang out, do research (and) visit our classes.”
Departments can choose to take advantage of the agreement and increase international opportunities. One possibility discussed at the signing was offering first-year signature courses at Shanghai University this summer.
It is up to department heads to pursue opportunities in Shanghai with the President’s Office offering “central support,” Arrellaga said.
“No partnership is going to be successful unless you have faculty in other schools that want them,” Arrellaga said.
President Jin’s visit was “a great example” of what ultimately is part of Fenves’ vision, Arrellaga said.
“We’ve got more people thinking about this on a daily basis than we did before,” Arrellaga said. “I think that’s a reflection of President Fenves’ desire to expand the University’s global footprint.”
Karla Aguilar, business and Plan II freshman, plans on minoring in Chinese and said she’d be “thrilled” to study in Shanghai.
“Shanghai is a really vibrant city, and I think UT students could benefit from the diversity that it offers,” Aguilar said. “You get exposure to a different culture, and involvement with China right now is huge because of growing industry and our new dependence on them.”