University of Wisconsin-River Falls

News Source

Nov. 7, 2003


UW-River Falls Strengthens Ties with China
By Sarah Matara
UW-RF News Bureau

Members of the UW-River Falls faculty and staff traveled to China recently to strengthen ties with Chinese educational institutions and foster international opportunities for the campus and community.

Chancellor Ann Lydecker, along with Brent Greene, director of international programs, and Ranee May, dairy plant manager, visited China in conjunction with a three-part educational mission.

At the Zhejiang Educational Institute Lydecker signed an expanded agreement of cooperation between ZEI and UW-RF. The two schools have a long-standing relationship. ZEI has sent graduate students and Chinese language instructors to UW-RF in the past.

The agreement includes more undergraduate student and faculty exchanges and scholarly visits.

Lydecker believes this agreement will benefit students at both institutions.

"This is a wonderful opportunity to deepen our relationship with Zhejiang Educational Institute and to bring a greater international presence to UW-RF.

"We already have a student very interested in going to Zhejiang as early as this spring semester. Not only will this be an excellent study abroad experience for this student, but she will also serve as a channel for increased exchange activity and a broader understanding of the two cultures."

Their second stop was the new exploration and research center of UW-RF alumnus Wong How Man in the province of Yunnan in western China.

How Man is an explorer, conservationist and photojournalist who is credited with discovering the true source of the Yangtze River. He received the prestigious honor of being named UW-RF's 2002 Distinguished Alumnus. He continues to launch new projects through the China Exploration and Research Society.

CERS projects range from the protection of rare black-neck cranes, antelope, wild yak and wild ass of the Tibetan plateau in the 45,000 square kilometer Altun Mountain Reservation in northwestern China, to conserving Palpung and Baiya monasteries and preserving a Moso village at Luguhu. The village is one of China's few remaining matrilineal communities. One of his projects recently aired on the Discovery Channel, titled "The Hanging Coffins of China."

Lydecker is enthusiastic about the benefits both the University and Wong can provide for each other.

"How Man is a tremendous resource for UW-RF. He is extremely proud to be a UW-RF alumnus. He profoundly appreciates the high quality education he received from UW-RF and feels a strong desire to stay connected and to give back to his alma mater. We have developed a deep and productive relationship with How Man. UW-RF is able to bring resources to compliment some of his research, conservation and education projects and he brings deeper international opportunities to the University."

Lydecker, Greene, May and Wong met with a Tibetan nomadic tribe to learn about the process of making yak butter and other dairy products using yak milk. Wong plans to build a small experimental yak cheese production laboratory. May will travel to China in late May with three UW-RF students to begin work on this project. The students were chosen due to their technical training at the UW-RF dairy plant. They will work as a team with representatives from two or three Tibetan nomadic tribes.

Junior Charles Henn is a pre-veterinary animal science major from Shawano; senior Joshua Boisen is a food science major from Minong; and junior Joseph Bollman is an agronomy major from Rice Lake.

They hope to increase the quality and productivity of yak milk products. They plan to gain consumer acceptance by developing a niche market, using upscale Chinese hotels as a test market.

May said one purpose of their work is to help the Tibetans sustain their current way of life. They move every two weeks and have been cooking their milk over an open fire.

"If we can produce a quality marketable cheese we will have helped improve the lives of a group of people whose lifestyle is rapidly dissipating. At present, the cheese they produce is very low quality. It is literally a waste product of their butter making process."

Greene and May agree that this is a tremendous opportunity for students to study overseas.

"Not only will this project help the Tibetans improve and partially preserve a dying lifestyle, it will also provide a very intense and fulfilling study abroad experience for some of our students. I think this is only the beginning of other joint projects between UW-RF and CERS," said Greene.

"This is a cultural experience to broaden their horizons," May said. "This will have a global impact on them that we cannot measure."

Wong will return to UW-RF next October. He will teach two classes: a photography course and a conservation course. Both will be open to students and the public.

The third part of the educational mission included a one-day visit to Yunnan University in Kunming, where they met with the president of the university, Wu Song, and other faculty and staff.

Lydecker felt the visit was positive and would foster new opportunities.

"Both universities are especially interested in working out an agreement of cooperation similar to the one with ZEI where we can exchange students, faculty and work collaboratively on other academic endeavors."

Zhang Fan, a faculty member from Yunnan University who also works with Wongand CERS will visit UW-RF next fall semester.

Greene also visited the Shih Hsin University in Taipei, Taiwan, where he met with Tzung-Tsann Mu, the president of the University, and the director of international programs and other faculty and staff.While there, he discussed the possibility of further exchange opportunities with Shih Hsin.

Two UW-RF students are studying there this semester. Juniors Kendra Plant, a business major from Blaine, Minn. , and Brandon Krech, a business administration major from Cottage Grove, Minn., are studying at Shih Hsin on full scholarships offered by Mu when he visited UW-RF in February.

Tzu-Hsiang Yu, director of international programs at Shih Hsin, will visit UW-RF in January to discuss further exchange opportunities.

Greene believes the trip was a success due to stronger exchange agreements and deeper connections with Wong and CERS.

"I think the eventual outcomes of this trip will be even more powerful and productive for the many, as yet, unimagined connections, visits back and forth between faculty, staff and students from many academic disciplines and for the many joint projects that will evolve through the coming years."

Lydecker emphasized again that ties with Chinese universities are beneficial not just to UW-RF, but everyone.

"The entire trip was extremely productive. China is an historical, culturally and ethnically rich country of vast human and natural resources. It is poised to be a world leader in the next half century. It will behoove the U.S. and universities such as UW-RF to establish close relations with partner institutions in China."

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