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His Energy Comes From Commencement Smiles

Editor’s Note: The Keuka China Program (KCP) is a bona fide success story. From modest beginnings in 2002, KCP now enrolls some 3,000 students at four major universities [Tianjin University of Science and Technology (TUST), Jimei University (JMU), Wenzhou University (WZU), and Yunnan University of Finance and Economics (YUFE)] and five separate schools in China. Not only does Keuka College boast the largest enrollment of any American college or university operating in China, but the College’s alumni ranks have swelled by some 6,000 thanks to KCP. One of the key authors of the KCP success story is Administrative Chancellor for China Campuses Dr. Michael T.C. Hwang. It was Hwang and President Emeritus Dr. Joseph G. Burke who spearheaded the development of KCP and to mark the 10th anniversary of the program, I talked with Dr. Hwang about his personal and professional attachment to KCP.

KM: What was it about Keuka College that convinced you that this partnership could work?

MH: We had the same mission and vision to create excellent educational opportunities for Chinese students. I discovered that Keuka College was student-centered and valued experiential education, which meshed with the focus of my professional career. Our partner relationship is interdependent; like “I need you as much as you need me.”

KM: Back in the formative stages KCP, did you ever envision that Keuka College would one day be the largest provider of an American education in China?

MH: No, but I am not surprised that it has. Keuka came into China at just the right time. It is a trend of the times.
KM: What are the reasons behind the success of KCP?

MH: I wouldn’t use the word “success” to describe the development of KCP because we run the program step-by-step to achieve our mission. We all had a clear view of our mission and vision when we developed KCP as well as the mutual trust that allows us to contribute our time, energy and life for the program. Even though we’ve had difficult times, we don’t give up.

KM: And neither do the Chinese partner universities.

MH: That’s correct. Without their efforts, our program wouldn’t run as smoothly as it does.

KM: The support from higher education and government leaders in China has also been key.

MH: In terms of education, like other areas, there are many differences between the United States and China. There are differences in policy, regulation, concept, culture, and curriculum to name a few. However, we have had the full support and trust from these leaders and that is critical.

KM: Although there are no plans to expand KCP to other universities, Qiqihar University is looking to re-join and the reason for that, according to Vice President of the Center for Professional Studies Dr. Gary Smith, is that the dean at Qiqihar “saw the difference KCPwas making at YUFE.” Do you view that as further evidence of the strength of KCP?

MH: Qiqihar University had a cooperative relationship with us in the very early stages and then discontinued. We are glad the university expressed an interest in re-opening the working relationship with Keuka. Qiqihar first needs local government and Ministry of Education approval, but if this cooperation could work out then it would really mean something to us.

KM: When I visited China in 2008 to attend the graduations at the partner schools, I sensed those ceremonies meant a lot to you, both personally and professionally.

MH: You had a good sense about this. I treasure the ceremonies; they are the most important time for me to meet every KCP student. I feel a very special emotion through the expression in the student’s eyes or in the handshake that tells me that all the effort they put in the past four years was worth it. This means a lot to me, especially with parents attending the ceremonies. I invite them to take pictures with their sons and daughters on the stage with university leaders in order to share this special time. I feel so happy when I see the shining smiles on parents’ faces. That gives me the energy to keep this program going.

KM: What has the program meant to you on a professional level?

MH: The program provides me an opportunity to prove that education knows no boundaries. Like the Chinese saying that all rivers flow to the sea, KCP provides opportunities to all kinds of students as long as they are willing to learn.

KM: How important is it to KCP that Chinese students are now studying in Keuka Park for one and sometimes more years? How does that benefit those students?

MH: I have received very good feedback from the students who have studied in Keuka Park. I always encourage students to pursue that opportunity because the students are not only able to experience a different type of campus life, but are also able to learn about a different culture and interact with different people. All of this adds richness to their lives.

KM: I believe that the true measure of any college or university is the people it produces–its alumni. KCP graduates have been accepted into some of the most prestigious graduate schools in the United States. How else are KCP alumni bringing distinction to Keuka College?

MH: KCP has about 6,000 graduates in China and they are doing extremely well in their jobs. But what I am most proud of is their confidence to face the real world after they complete their studies. We conducted a survey about the difference between KCP students and non-KCP students [at the partner universities] and the data showed that KCP students receive better jobs offers and after finding a job, received more recognition from their employers.

KM: But in terms of confidence, it’s not all about career preparation.

MH: That’s right. One of the most important missions that KCP carries out is that it provides students many ways to find out what they are and who they are. KCP provides good faculty to teach students and a good curriculum for students to learn.

KM: You are a big fan of the experiential education course.

MH: Oh yes. It provides a cornerstone for academic study, career preparation, and personal growth.

KM: One of the major developments in KCP was when Field Period was introduced. How has that been received by Chinese companies and organizations that have hosted KCP students?

MH: KCP students requested to have Field Period in many different fields. Many different types of companies and organizations have hosted our students and most recognize our mission and show great support for our programs. Since the start of KCP, the concept of career management and experiential learning has blossomed in China and I am glad to see that.

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