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Union faculty lead global discussions at Chinese education conference

Tim Smith, dean of Union's School of Nursing, leads a session as part of a conference at China's Qingdao University. (Photo by Ben Dockery)
Tim Smith, dean of Union's School of Nursing, leads a session as part of a conference at China's Qingdao University. (Photo by Ben Dockery)

JACKSON, Tenn.July 6, 2006 – Union University administrators and faculty members took a significant leadership role at a major Asian education conference involving 42 universities in the United States and China.

The conference at China’s Qingdao University was entitled “Globalization: Education, Business, Culture, Health: A Sino-American Summit.” It attracted 300 participants June 21-23 who examined ways to open new academic pathways among educators in the two nations.

Subjects explored included international business, economics, finance and entrepreneurship, international studies, communication, culture and language, public health, aging and nutrition.

The conference was sponsored by the Consortium for Global Education, a non-profit organization of 43 accredited private universities and colleges with 241 overseas universities in 80 countries. Union President David S. Dockery is the CGE chairman-elect.

Dockery moderated a discussion on accreditation, provided an address on international business trends and spoke at the closing dinner June 23.

“It is gratifying to see people from West Tennessee on the international stage, helping to lead so many important global discussions,” Dockery said. “Union had the largest and most significant presence of any American university.”

In his final address to the conference, Dockery acknowledged the areas of commonality between western and eastern civilizations in business, health care and education. But he discussed the differences that the cultures have to acknowledge.

After summarizing the influence of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism on Asian thought, Dockery then traced the major questions raised in western philosophy. Asians focus on a personal concept of law and impersonal deities, while western thought has an emphasized the importance of a personal deity and the rule of law, or impersonal law.

From that he suggested overarching philosophical educational questions that could help carry the conversation forward.

Union University administrators and faculty members had leadership roles as presenters or moderators in 10 events. In addition to Dockery, other participants included Carla Sanderson, university provost; Tim Smith, dean of the School of Nursing; Jimmy Davis, vice provost and university professor of chemistry, Cynthia Jayne, associate provost and dean of the Institute for International and Intercultural Studies; and Charles Fowler, senior vice president for university relations.

Sociology professor Naomi Larsen also led nine Union graduate students who participated in the conference as part of a class project.

Smith gave a presentation on avian flu that was well received by conference attendees. He discussed the symptoms of the disease, and how education institutions should prepare themselves if the disease were to become a pandemic.

“It’s a world health issue, not just a China or an Indonesia or American issue,” Smith said. “The room was packed, because I think most people have not taken the time to stop and learn about it.”

Representatives from China’s minister of education Zhou Ji addressed the conference, as did representatives from the U.S. State Department. A letter was also presented from Clark T. Randt Jr., the U.S. ambassador to China.

In addition to Union, 17 other American universities had representatives at Qingdao. They were joined by colleagues from 24 Chinese universities.

Qingdao, on China’s northeastern coast, is a city of seven million people roughly 240 miles southeast of Beijing. Qingdao will be the host city for the 2008 Olympic water sports.

Union is developing a partnership with Qingdao University in the areas of education and intercultural studies. Union recently established a relationship with Yanbian University, also in northeastern China, near Russian and North Korean borders. The two schools exchange students and faculty, with plans to pursue a shared Master of Business Administration program.

Media contact: Tim Ellsworth, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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