City officials and representatives of Vincennes University on Tuesday entered into exchange programs with their counterparts in Xuyi County in Jiangsu Province, China.
A delegation of Chinese officials meet with Mayor Joe Yochum and VU President Chuck Johnson — along with several other community leaders and university employees — at the Isaac K. Beckes Student Union to formally sign agreements that will now pave the way for educational opportunities both here and abroad.
“We've got our first student from Xuyi County admitted for the spring semester,” Johnson said following the brief ceremony. “And I expect that to be a starting point for so much more.”
The agreements with both Xuyi High School and the Institute of Xuyi Vocational Education will allow Chinese students to study here, Johnson said. And it's possible that VU faculty, too, will have opportunities to visit Xuyi County for professional development opportunities.
And the sister city program — Vincennes' third such sister city, joining Vincennes, France, and Wasserburg, Germany — should open additional opportunities for tourism and business development, too.
“This new relationship, this new sister city, will hopefully allow us to grow through business, tourism and education,” Yochum said.
Yochum, Johnson and Kent Utt, president of the Knox County Development Corp., visited the delegation of men in Xuyi County back in 2006, visiting businesses, educational institutions and forging the way for these agreements to be signed.
Utt said Tuesday it was nice to see their “familiar faces once again” and continue discussions on how they can work together. He said he was “encouraged” to see so much talent and opportunity in one room, and he thought the new agreements would “surely benefit” students both here and there.
Tiancheng Ge, principal of Xuyi High School, agreed, saying he hoped the one student set to study at VU this spring opens the door for more opportunities down the line.
“I hope, in the future, we have more and more students and faculty come to learn and to see,” he said with the help of an interpreter.
Johnson, too, reiterated that the agreements, especially the one with Xuyi High School, were “very positive” for both VU and Xuyi County.
“(That particular agreement) will really give us a chance to get in front of those students before they've had a chance to learn of other options and engage them in what we have available here at VU,” he said.
“We hope they come here, get that exposure then return home to talk about it and generate even more interest.”
Developing relationships with educational institutes in China, however, is nothing new for VU officials.
Years ago, VU developed a relationship with Hong Kong, offering students there a rare opportunity at a U.S. college education. Many VU alumni then went on to distinguished universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale University, Indiana University and Purdue University, to name a few, to earn advanced degrees.
Some of the went back home to Hong Kong, while others stayed in the U.S.
Since 1960, VU has graduated some 600 Hong Kong nationals.
Johnson has focused his attention in recent years on broadening that relationship to include more areas of China.