Arkansas U. to expand China ties

Updated: 2015-03-11 11:07

By Paul Welitzkin in New York(China Daily USA)

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Arkansas U. to expand China ties

From left: Pengyin Chen, Rick Bennett, Mike Looper, Leslie Edgar, and Dean Mike Vayda of the University of Arkansas meet with Northwest Agricultural and Forestry University administrators in Yangling, China, in January to discuss a potential exchange program. Provided to China Daily

With over 1.3 billion mouths to feed, agriculture is important in China. It's also important at the University of Arkansas and administrators from the university met with their counterparts in China to look for collaboration opportunities.

"We completed a survey of students and faculty in the Bumpers College to identify key areas where we need to expand our relationship and Asia was right there," Leslie Edgar, director of international programs for the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences said in an interview.

In January, Edgar, other top administrators from the state university in Fayetteville and Pengyin Chen, a professor of plant breeding and genetics, met with officials from China Agricultural University in Beijing, Northeast Agricultural University in Harbin and Northwest Agricultural and Forestry University in Yangling.

"Professor Chen was invaluable to us and without him we wouldn't have been as successful," Edgar said of the native of Shaanxin province. "His connections enabled us to quickly build a relationship with the Chinese colleges."

Chen came to the US in 1984 and has been teaching at the university for the last 14 years. Acknowledging the importance of agriculture in China and in Arkansas, Chen said it offers fertile ground for both sides in building a good foundation.

"Agriculture is important to the economy in Arkansas and it's also important for China. I believe this can offer the right environment to create productive exchange programs involving faculty, students and staff," Chen said.

Chen said joint-research projects can take advantage of both sides' strengths. "China is very good at research on drought tolerance. We can use their research and build on it with our research here in the US to help develop plants that can survive a lack of water.

"Now we have very good knowledge in biotechnology," Chen continued. "We can help train their staff in our techniques which are very productive," he said.

Chen said the Chinese universities are eager to have their research published in various agriculture and scientific journals. "We can certainly help them with their English skills so they can publish more of their work in journals," he added.

He believes that students from Arkansas can benefit in many ways from studying or conducting research in China."It would open up their cultural curiosity. The Chinese are very good at teaching math and science and they would enjoy sharing this with the students," he said.

The University of Arkansas has an existing relationship with China Agricultural University which it hopes to expand. Edgar said UA also wants to establish exchange programs with Northeast Agricultural and Northwest Agricultural and Forestry universities.

Edgar said the Bumpers College has a total enrollment of about 2,500 students and about 197 Chinese students. There are about 1,000 Chinese students at the university, which has an enrollment of about 26,000. "That is certainly an area we want to work on and improve upon," she said.

Also accompanying Edgar and Chen was Bumpers Dean Mike Vayda, Mike Looper, chairman of the animal science department and Rick Bennett, chair of the plant pathology department.