April 3, 2009
Arkansas State University-Jonesboro

Happy Birthday, ASU!  Through the hard work and dedication of many generations of excellent state and federal legislators and officials, trustees, presidents, faculty, staff and students, our university has arrived at its 100th anniversary in excellent shape and poised for even greater achievements in the future.  Our economic and security challenges today pale beside the campus fire of 1931, two World Wars, the Great Depression and the Cold War our predecessors faced and surmounted.  Dr. Ruth Hawkins and the Centennial Commission organized a great birthday party for the campus on April 1, and we are grateful for all who attended and participated.

As I wrote the first part of this report on March 31, Dr. Jeff Jenness, Irene and I were on a freeway in Shanghai, China, on our way to Pu Dong airport after excellent visits during spring break to two Chinese universities.  This trip was made at Dr. Jenness’s suggestion to enhance relationships ASU has had at these universities for several years due to the fine work by Dr. Jenness, Dr. Clint Relyea and Dr. John Seydel.  I am sure that our ASU predecessors would be proud of the continued world outreach and internationalization of ASU being undertaken by our faculty, staff and students, and especially by Dr. Dan Howard and the staff in the Office of International Programs, past and present.  (At the time of our trip to China, Dr. Howard was also there developing relationships with agencies that place well-qualified Chinese students at academic institutions of higher education in the United States, providing lectures and workshops for prospective students in selected high schools and universities, negotiating memoranda of understandings with high schools and universities, and otherwise engaging in activities to help recruit Chinese students to our campus for English as a Second Language and academic programs.)

In this issue of First Friday I shall review ASU’s relationships with Shandong University of Finance and Huzhou University, mention an interesting trip to Georgia for a memorial service for Millard Fuller, announce our commencement speakers for May and December, and finally brag a little about our daughter, Julia Anna, and her work with a homeless food kitchen in Washington, D.C.

March Trip to China
Shandong University of Finance (SUF) is located in Jinan, China, a city with a 4,000-year history and approximately six million people. Jinan, known as the “City of Springs,” is the capital of beautiful Shandong Province, situated near the east coast of China. Shandong Province, like Arkansas, has a large agriculture base, with wheat being a major crop.  Located at the foot of Golden Rooster Hill, SUF is one of 12 universities and colleges in the city. It was created in 1986 as part of the higher education expansion and reform authorized by the Chinese government then led by the highly regarded Deng Xiaoping, who signed SUF’s charter.  It presently enrolls approximately 11,000 students in 13 schools (Accounting, Business Administration, Computer and Information Engineering, Continuing Education, Economics, Humanities, Foreign Languages, International Education, International Trade and Economics, Physical Education, Political Studies and Law, Public Finance and Administration, and Statistical and Mathematical Science) and offers bachelor’s degrees in 30 areas and master’s degrees in 11 fields.  It has approximately 1,000 faculty and administrative staff, 38 advanced laboratories, and a library with a collection of approximately one million volumes.  Its modern classroom and laboratories are generally equipped with up-to-date technology and equipment.  Most of its students and many of its faculty and staff are housed in modern residence halls on campus (see photos from campus). Within the past five years, its faculty and students have engaged in more than 300 separate research projects.

ASU’s partnership with SUF began in May 2005 when Dr. Jenness visited and initiated discussions that culminated in a cooperative agreement signed in early 2006 by ASU President Wyatt and SUF President Shuai Chongqing.  Dr. Clint Relyea from the ASU College of Business taught as a visiting professor in 2006, and Dr. John Seydel from the College of Business taught in 2008.  Dr. Jenness has taught there each year since 2005, including an entire semester in 2007, and SUF administrators have visited ASU on two occasions. For the first time, an ASU student, Raquel Torres of Bay, is enrolled this semester at SUF and profiting greatly from her experiences there.  She is a very popular student, and has made a wide range of Chinese and other international student friends, several of whom we met on our visit (see photo).

Last week at a formal signing ceremony, SUF’s President Huang Qi and I signed (see photo) a new cooperative agreement (agreement) and a 3+1 degree program agreement (agreement) , which we hope will bring many SUF students to ASU and result in several of our students studying there and more faculty visits.

Dr. Jenness has done a wonderful job working with the faculty at SUF, and is very highly regarded there. He is featured in a university viewbook. Faculty or students interested in teaching or studying at SUF should contact Dr. Jenness at jeffj@astate.edu.

Huzhou University (HU) is located in Huzhou City, China, with a population of approximately 2.5 million, in Zhejiang Province, approximately 120 miles west of Shanghai in the Yangtze River Delta area. The city is situated on the south shore of TaiHu Lake, the third largest freshwater lake in China. Huzhou has a 2,300 year history and was the birthplace of the silk industry.  HU began in 1916 as a teacher training institute, became an institution of higher education in 1958, gradually expanded its curriculum, and moved to its present modern campus in 1997 (see photos).  Like SUF, many of its more than 14,000 students live in residence halls on campus.  Now a comprehensive bachelor’s level university, it has 10 schools -- Humanities, Law and Business, Foreign Languages, Sciences, Life Sciences, Medicine (Nursing and Acupuncture), Information Engineering, Arts, Physical Education, and Education Science and Technology -- that offer 44 bachelor’s and associate’s degree programs.  It currently has in excess of 1,200 faculty members, of which more than 700 are full time and most possess advanced degrees.  Its physical facilities are outstanding and several of its academic buildings surround a small, beautifully landscaped lake (where no fishing is allowed!).  With a library of more than one million volumes and 2,000 periodicals, HU has a small research program and its faculty are widely published.

ASU’s connection was established in summer 2006 when President Wyatt of ASU and President Hu Zhangjian of HU signed a cooperative agreement following a visit by Professor Jenness upon the suggestion of Dr. Jie Miao, a member of the ASU math faculty, who is a close friend of President Hu. (They were classmates at Hangzhou University).  To date, there has been little contact between our institutions following the 2006 agreement, but that is about to change.  Professor Jenness and I had a lengthy meeting with President Hu and his administrative and academic team (see photos) last Monday, March 29, and I gave a presentation later that same day to students and faculty of the School of Foreign Languages on Governance of Higher Education in the United States and at ASU.  President Hu, Professor Zhengyu Liang, Dean of the School of Foreign Languages, and Professor Zhang Guochen, Deputy Dean of the HU Foreign Affairs Office, will visit our campus and Arkansas for three days beginning April 20.  Following that visit and further exchange of information about curriculum and programs, we hope to sign a cooperative extension agreement with HU for a 2+2 or 3+1 program similar to the one just entered with SUF.  When Dr. Jenness returns from China in a few days, he will contact various departments and consult with Academic Affairs and Research to ascertain interest in such programs.

We were treated graciously by our hosts at both Chinese universities.  All ground transportation, lodging and meals were provided to us, and we were given guided tours to nearby historical sites of interest.  While in Shandong Province, we visited Qingdao, a beautiful costal city on the Yellow Sea much influenced by the Germans when they occupied the area from 1897 to 1914 (photo); and Qufu, the home and burial ground of Confucius (photo).

While in Zhejiang Province, we were taken to Nanxun, an ancient city with canals running through it (photo) and the well-preserved homes from the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644).  During a fishing trip to Balidian YiYan Park, angler Jeff Jenness caught the only fish, a carp, which swam off with his fishing pole when he wasn’t paying attention. The pole was eventually retrieved by a Chinese angler, and the fish was thereafter cooked for our lunch! (see photos)

I returned from our short trip with several observations:  (1) there are more people in Eastern China than one can even imagine and this hardworking population is a potent asset in today’s world, but also makes the “one child” policy of China very understandable; (2) the amount of economic infrastructure development that has occurred in China in the last 30 years following the economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping is extraordinary and impressive; (3) air pollution, a horrific problem in the cities and countryside, must be addressed; (4) Chinese higher education is well developed in the two provinces we visited, and its leaders are eager to collaborate with U. S. institutions; (5) our faculty and students could profit immensely by engaging with their Chinese counterparts both on our campus and in China; (6) the Chinese people are hospitable and gracious; (7) a foreigner should never drive in a Chinese city amid the late model cars, antique vehicles, three-wheel vehicles, motorcycles, motor scooters, motor bikes, regular bikes, rickshaws and pedestrians – traffic and people appear to come from all directions and rules of the road, if there are any, are routinely ignored; (8) the Chinese government through its English language publications (e.g. The China Daily) and English language broadcasts on TV Channel 9 makes a major and sophisticated effort to defend its policies and positions on internal and world affairs; (9) Chinese hosts can offer culinary experiences never before imagined; and (10) the current worldwide recession is impacting China significantly, but less than many other parts of the world (see Fallows, Interesting Times, The Atlantic, April 2009, pp. 54-63).

As you may recall from my February First Friday report, my friend Millard Fuller invited me to serve on an advisory council for his Fuller Center for Housing shortly before he died on Feb. 3.  I decided to accept, and the first meeting of the group was called in conjunction with a memorial service held in Millard’s memory at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on the weekend of March 14-15.  The service  (report from Linda Fuller) was well-attended and planned with former President Jimmy Carter making opening remarks. The keynote address was given by my friend, Tony Campolo, who has also accepted an invitation to be our commencement speaker here at ASU in December 2009.  (E. Gordon Gee, president of The Ohio State University, will speak to our May 2009 graduates).  Following the service, the advisory council had dinner with the Board of Directors of The Fuller Center, and then met separately for a get-acquainted session.  Dr. Bill Muse, former president of Auburn University and a good friend from our years working in higher education in Alabama, serves as chair of the group. My former classmate Phil Lader, former U. S. Ambassador to Great Britain, is also one of its members.  The Advisory Council members were invited to Plains, Ga., to attend the Sunday worship service on March 15 at Maranatha Baptist Church, where former President Carter teaches Sunday School each week he is in town.  I was pleased to discover, sitting on the front row as President Carter taught the class, two ASU alumni, Steve and Mary Seitz from Hot Springs, pictured here with President and Mrs. Carter. Later, I visited Millard’s grave at Koinonia Farm near Americus, Ga., for a short memorial service, and returned to Jonesboro on Sunday evening.  After this visit I am convinced that Millard’s good work in building affordable housing for the poor will continue.

Miriam’s Kitchen
I believe one of our responsibilities as citizens who have been fortunate enough to have a good life is to find a way to “give back” to those less fortunate than we, and that those of us in public education have a double duty to demonstrate to our students by example and opportunity this “service” as part of life.  Many of our civic clubs and campus organizations offer great opportunities to be so involved, but over the years, to my regret, I have not always taken the time to do this type of pro bono work.  Thus, Irene and I have been so proud that our daughter, Julie Anna, who has a busy professional life and a husband and three small children, has found time to work with a food kitchen for the homeless, Miriam’s Kitchen, in Washington, D.C.  She frequently helps to prepare and serve hot meals to homeless guests, raises funds for the project, and is now serving as chair of its board.  She was surprised a few weeks ago when the staff of the facility received a call from The White House indicating that First Lady Michelle Obama wished to visit Miriam’s Kitchen, which she did on March 5.  Julie Anna had a chance to brief her on the work of the kitchen, and then Mrs. Obama served food to the "guests" for almost an hour (see photos).  That day, at least, good deeds were rewarded with positive news stories that ran worldwide and will no doubt increase financial and other support for this worthy project.  Have a great April.


Robert L. Potts

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