As institutions throughout the University System of Georgia are developing links with counterparts around the world, the Georgia Regents University in Augusta is strengthening its ties with Chinese universities.
Following a year of negotiations with Jianghan University in Wuhan, China, six of its students are expected to enroll in the Augusta university’s College of Nursing this fall.
They represent the first of what is to become a growing number of relationships with half a dozen Chinese universities that officials from Georgia Regents have been visiting in hopes of reaching agreements for faculty and student exchanges.
The university, which has 10,000 students and was formed in January through a merger of the liberal arts Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities, also hopes to attract a Confucius Institute to foster cultural exchanges, according to Roman Cibirka, vice provost.
But China’s Ministry of Education is considering many applications from around the world to establish such institutes and he doesn’t expect an approval any time soon.
Dr. Cibirka is more optimistic about a course on traditional Chinese medical practices that may be included in the university’s curriculum as soon as the fall of 2015.
“We want a robust program that benefits from both Western and Eastern practices,” he told Global Atlanta. “We still have a lot to learn about Chinese medicine, but we know that there are some very valid practices especially in preventative medicine.”
Unlike many of the Chinese researchers that have come to the university in the past and have had to return home once their program ends, the nurses are to have a choice of either returning or staying on in Georgia to practice.
Dr. Cibirka said that a mandate of the entire system is to expose students to opportunities around the world as well as at home, and that the challenge is to assure the programs are sustainable.
Student and faculty exchanges work both ways, he explained, in keeping with the University System’s strategic plan that encourages the development of exchange programs.
“Georgia is becoming a melting pot and we want to prepare our students for global engagement,” he said. “Already we have students from 86 countries on campus and about a tenth of our student body is from abroad.”
A large number of relationships have been in place for years, he added, even before he joined the faculty 16 years ago when researchers came to the Augusta from abroad under programs funded by federal and state grants.
The university’s outreach in China, he said, is based on many of the relationships that have been made over the years through these initial exchanges.
The Chinese officials from Wuhan were especially impressed by the university’s Interdisciplinary Simulation Center that provides state-of-the art services for the university and Georgia health care facilities across the state.
The center is used to teach health care skills to students of the health professions and for teaching new procedures.
While the university’s focus on China is entering a new phase, Augusta has had a historical relationship with Chinese immigrants who helped extend the Augusta Canal in the 1870s.
A Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association that traces its roots to the 19th century remains active today.