In the years since Utah State University and National Chung Hsing University began exploring ways to work together, beginning in 2011 and formalizing an agreement in 2018, faculty and students at the two universities have developed collaborations and friendships.
Leaders from NCHU, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco, and USU met this week to extend the collaboration and explore more opportunities for students and faculty at both universities. Collaborative work so far has focused on plant, soils, environmental and climate sciences.
NCHU Vice President Chun-Liang Lin represented the university at the signing and noted that both universities had their start in agricultural sciences and work on similar problems in different parts of the world. Lin, who is an aviation and astronautical engineer, acknowledged the importance of supporting that ongoing work and looks forward to forging new collaborations with USU in computer and electrical engineering and aviation as well.
Central to developing the new and original agreements are the efforts of USU alumni Don and Ming Wang. They began paving the way for exchanges with higher education institutions in Taiwan in 2011, traveling there with USU faculty and administrators and bringing faculty from NCHU to visit USU. They view their investments of time, energy and money as a way to build model programs that can grow and create more opportunities for students and faculty here and in their native Taiwan.
Don Wang said people sometimes wonder why a retired banking and insurance executive devotes so much effort to support higher education. Wang explained that the “education gene is in my body.” His father was an educator at a university in Taiwan that focused on chemistry as a basis for research and teaching in nutrition, pharmaceutical and environmental sciences.
Wang is energized by the successes of students and faculty so far and optimistic about expanding collaborations to include engineering, aviation, and Chinese- and English-language programs in communities. Although the COVID pandemic made exchanges difficult and halted some plans, he remains characteristically optimistic.
“I think this is not a crisis,” Wang said. “It is an opportunity. It is an opportunity to prepare, to be ready so that once it passes we are ready to jump and fly.”
He noted that there are natural places to connect USU programs with NCHU given their mutual focus on agriculture but also in aviation and engineering, because Taiwan is a hub of aviation maintenance in Asia and dominates the global microchip industry.
At the signing, College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences Dean Ken White noted that while NCHU and USU are separated by many miles, both are focused on similar issues and concerns.
“I think that’s what cements the partnership, because we are all focused on the same bullseyes,” White said. “And when I describe the students who have come here in our college, I say they have been fantastic.”
CAAS is the home base of iPACE — the International Partnership in Agriculture, Climate and Environment — which works to create connections between USU and NCHU. USU Professors Simon Wang and Scott Jones, in addition to their teaching and research, work to facilitate student and faculty exchanges.
Students from NCHU have excelled in their study and research programs at USU, including Li-Ting "Mila" Yen, the first to pursue dual doctoral degrees in soils and environmental science from both universities, and Ji Jhong “J.J.” Chen, who was the 2020 College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences Master's Student Researcher of the Year and is currently working on his Ph.D.
USU faculty have visited NCHU to build collaborations with faculty there. Several have taught courses and seminars and done research that continues with faculty and student collaborators at NCHU. In addition, USU students have participated in summer group study opportunities in Taiwan where they learn firsthand about Taiwan’s culture, research at NCHU, and many facets of the country’s culture, industry and food production.
Ming-Chi Scott Lai, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco, and some of his colleagues were part of the group visiting USU and meeting with several Taiwanese businesspeople who work and live on Utah’s Wasatch Front.
At the signing, Director General Lai noted many close ties between Utah and Taiwan, including more than $1.3 billion in trade last year. The office he heads represents Taiwan in consular, education and economic affairs in this region, and he said he looks forward to seeing more collaborations develop.
USU President Noelle Cockett greeted students currently pursuing degrees at USU and recognized the good that has come from Utah students traveling to Taiwan.
“We do this because of our students, because they will be tomorrow’s leaders,” Cockett said. “I hope great learning opportunities will help them always remember the friendships that they have built and carry them in their hearts wherever they go in the world.”
For more information about exchanges and collaboration with NCHU, contact Professor Simon Wang by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and learn more about iPACE achievements and opportunities at the partnership's website, http://psc.001ii.net/ipace/.
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