Lawrence Schovanec signed five cooperative agreements with Chinese universities and was a featured speaker at an event for globalization in academia.
Texas Tech University has emphasized the importance of increased global awareness for several years.
Under the university's 2015 Quality Enhancement Plan, “Communicating in a Global Society: Bear Our Banners Far and Wide,” Texas Tech opened the Center for Global Communication to enhance undergraduate education in the area of global communications. In March of 2018, the university received its second Sen. Paul Simon Award – the Sen. Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization – after receiving the Sen. Paul Simon Spotlight Award, which recognizes internationalization in a specific program or initiative, in 2016. Texas Tech's first international campus, Texas Tech University at Costa Rica, will welcome its inaugural class this fall.
Now, President Lawrence Schovanec has just returned from a trip that put Texas Tech in an even greater international spotlight.
Schovanec – along with Vice President for ResearchJoseph A. Heppert, Hong Zhang, a professor of plant molecular biology and plant biotechnology in the Department of Biological Sciences, and Grace Hernandez, chief of staff and associate vice president for administration – recently spent eight days traveling through China to tour nine universities, meet with their top administrators and sign agreements for cooperative efforts between Texas Tech and their institutions.
While there, Schovanec was one of two university presidents – and the only one from the Western Hemisphere – invited to speak in front of thousands of academics at the grand opening of Sichuan University's summer University Immersion Program.
“There's no doubt Texas Tech's reputation has improved,” Schovanec said. “The Chinese are very cognizant of university rankings. Many of the presidents I met with commented they were aware that Texas Tech had moved into the highest research category. It was clear we have greater stature among some very good schools, and hopefully that will translate into a benefit in recruiting students.”
Texas Tech currently has slightly more than 3,000 international students. China tops the list as home to about 10 percent of them, but Schovanec said he sees room to grow those numbers.
“The last couple of years, our recruitment from China has been flat,” he said. “Many universities from around the world recruit in China and there is strong competition for these students among American universities. Also, as universities in China have improved, students choose to stay home and study at those institutions. But there are still plenty of opportunities in China, and I did feel encouraged that we could do more to attract students from China.”
One opportunity is for joint research that can be conducted by faculty between institutions.
“The Chinese government has heavily invested in expanding the research capacity of its universities over the past decade,” Heppert said. “It was obvious to us this commitment to investment will continue into the foreseeable future. We toured new facilities for life science, materials and chemical science research that rival those of any top U.S. public research university. This situation has created an outstanding environment for building collaborations that will raise the profile of research conducted both by Texas Tech faculty and their Chinese partners.”
Over the course of eight days, the Texas Tech delegation visited nine universities in three major cities and signed five cooperative agreements, which set parameters for future academic interchange of faculty and students as well as academic and research information between the institutions.
“This trip provided us the opportunity to meet with research leaders at some of China's top universities,” Heppert said. “I was struck by the many opportunities for creating synergistic collaborations between Texas Tech investigators and various world-class researchers at these institutions.
“The universities we visited have real research strengths in renewable energy, environmental monitoring and remediation, basic and applied plant science, development of severe weather resiliency for critical infrastructure, historical and cultural studies, and entrepreneurship and innovation. Our task going forward is to connect researchers from Texas Tech with faculty having similar interests at Chinese institutions and support their joint efforts to build funded collaborations on projects of global significance.”
Success in Chinese relations, Schovanec explained, is based on personal connections. One of the universities the group visited has been working with Texas Tech's College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources for three decades through exchange programs in agricultural economics and plant and soil sciences. With new cooperative agreements, Schovanec and Heppert said they hope to see more collaborations bloom and flourish.
On the final day of the trip, Texas Tech was prominently featured in the grand opening ceremony for the Sichuan University Immersion Program, a two-week summer program designed to convene professors from all over the world to give short courses and lectures to undergraduate students and offer them an international experience. The program features 187 world-class universities from 26 countries, including Harvard University, Oxford University, Cornell University, Stanford University, the University of Notre Dame, the London School of Economics and Political Science, the National University of Singapore and Japan's Tohoku University.
“There were 6,000 or 7,000 people at the opening ceremonies, and Texas Tech was prominently featured in the program,” Schovanec said. “I appreciated the opportunity to address the event, which provided great publicity for Texas Tech. I was pleased that four Texas Tech students were participating in the event, and enjoyed visiting with them.”
Schovanec, like most of the speakers, addressed the importance of globalization. He said universities around the world should actively promote the integration of college students into their future societies to enhance their skills and capabilities – especially global competitiveness – to better cope with the challenges they will face.
Sichuan University President Li Yanrong confirmed Texas Tech's international status during the signing ceremony preceding the opening of the University Immersion Program.
“He was one of several presidents who said Texas Tech has a superb reputation in China and they are very impressed that we have moved into the highest research category,” Schovanec said. “They were aware of Texas Tech's growth and emergence as a national player.”