Millikin University welcomed 20 visitors to campus this September from Northeast Normal University High School (NENU) based in northern China. The Chinese visitors included 15 high school students, four teachers and the High School's Principal Mr. Shi, Liang. The two-day visit was part of a partnership between the high school and Millikin University's School of Education. The visit allowed students to explore Millikin and learn about campus experiences.
"The School of Education has had this partnership with the high school since 2005," said Dr. Nancy Gaylen, director of the School of Education and associate professor of education. "We see great potential for having the students coming into college go to Millikin or to have more Millikin students who are not necessarily part of the School of Education go there. During the two-day visit we brainstormed about all the things we could do beyond what we have been doing in the School of Education."
Throughout their visit, the students went on a campus tour, listened to presentations from two NENU professors who are spending the semester at Millikin – Jessica Zhang and Nina Xuan – and enjoyed Millikin's International Month Festival in Richards Treat University Center. The students also experienced Millikin's English Language Center (ELC).
"I think it was very important for the students and teachers to come to Millikin's campus because it helps everyone understand how special this partnership is," said Florence Galy, Millikin's director of International Recruitment and Global Strategy. "This partnership has given our students and graduates plenty of opportunities to not only go abroad but have a real experience as professionals. It's not very common to have this type of partnership."
Gaylen added, "I think the principal realized during the visit that Millikin is a place where students are cared for, and he especially saw that when he visited the English Language Center. He saw that the Center has a comfortable place for the students to read books, work with computers, and he saw his students integrating right away with other international students. The principal was also very interested in the fact that we have a bridge program – meaning that if your TOEFL score isn't high enough you can use the English Language Center to improve in that area. That made an impression on him."
Along with their experiences throughout campus, the students learned all the aspects of Millikin's educational opportunities. Principal Shi also met with Millikin University President Dr. Patrick E. White and Millikin's Director of the Center for International Education Carmen Aravena.
When asked about how the partnership will continue to grow Gaylen said, "One idea that we are working on is having a culture course in the summer time at Millikin, that way the students from China can see what Millikin is like for a two or three-week span and understand the college experience. Another idea would be having Millikin faculty go to NENU for a semester to teach."
"Each year since 2005 two teachers from NENU come to Millikin for approximately two months," said Gaylen. "About every other summer, I take an immersion class of Millikin students to China and my goal with that immersion is to help the education students see that they could go there as a job after graduation. The students that have gone to China in the past have absolutely loved it."
Gaylen added, "The students were very happy to participate in the English Language Center and not just tour the campus. They were able to participate in many things."
The visit concluded with a trip to Dennis Elementary School in Decatur, Ill., as the teachers and Principal Shi observed the Chinese guest teachers in their classrooms. The Chinese students wrapped up their visit by observing Millikin fine arts classes and music ensembles.
Galy added, "There are many ways to further explore and expand this partnership. I think the students left with many things to remember about an American campus, and I think they left with a great impression about how Millikin's educational system works and what people are like on campus."