By Jordyn Reiland and Kristen East, Daily Iowan
President Sally Mason says that while University of Iowa officials are not planning to increase student enrollment, the university will continue to pursue international relations and make connections with alumni and prospective students overseas.
“I think if we wanted more international students, we probably could,” she told The Daily Iowan.
“See, right now, we are trying to hold enrollment stable. So we aren’t really growing those numbers. Clearly, there is great demand for American higher education. While the young people I saw clearly were interested in the University of Iowa, an opportunity to study anywhere in the United States is highly valued by the Chinese students, by the young people here. They very much want to take advantage of higher education whether they can go to a university in China or over here — they are equally excited about the opportunities.”
Mason traveled to Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, and Taipei, Taiwan, from July 1-9. A handful of UI officials accompanied Mason on the trip, including Dean of International Programs Downing Thomas and UI Foundation President Lynette Marshall.
A total of 1,737 Chinese students studied at the UI in the fall of 2011, and another 98 came from Taiwan. China is home to the largest international population at the UI.
Forrest Meyer, the executive director of strategic communications for the UI Foundation, had previously told the DI that the Foundation would pay trip expenses for Sally and Ken Mason, one member of the UI President’s Office staff, Marshall, and two other members of the Foundation staff.
UI spokesman Tom Moore said Tuesday there are no available costs for the trip because expenses are still being finalized.
University officials visited several Chinese and Taiwanese universities during their time in Asia, and College of Education Dean Margaret Crocco said international students are particularly interested in the UI’s graduate education programs.
“… In areas such as measurement and statistics, we have a long tradition as an innovator in the area of educational testing,” she said. “Individuals have been coming for decades to gain expertise in educational measurement and testing and taking that back to their ministries of education.”
Mason said time spent conversing with the Shanghai Writers’ Group allowed officials to discuss the global influence of the UI International Writing Program.
“A number of these writers have been in our International Writing Program. These are some of the most prominent and famous writers in China today,” she said. “… So many of them spoke so wonderfully about their time in Iowa City and how they hope to come back.”
Crocco said she was interested in seeking opportunities in Asia for UI students to have a study-abroad experience there or for UI faculty to conduct collaborative research with some of Asian universities.
“My purpose in going was first and foremost to connect with our alumni …” she said. “We’ve been producing Ph.D.s for [students from] China and Hong Kong and Taiwan for decades now,” she said. “Primarily, I was interested in reconnecting as a new dean with those alumni and learning about how they put their educations to work.”
Mason said her time in Taiwan was brief yet beneficial in that she spent much of her time speaking with officials on their flood-control methods.
“So we are sharing expertise; we are sharing ideas there with some very, very great collaboration with the kinds of things they are doing to recover or mitigate against natural disasters,” she said. “Simultaneously, they are seeing how our flood center can help them.”
Thomas said Mason’s trip exemplifies the importance of relations between the UI and Asia.
“Just in general, connecting with Asia is very important for the future of the university and really the state of Iowa,“ he said.
Thomas said the connection the state has with Asia sets an example for what the UI should continue to strive for.
“There are very strong connections [with Asia] to the state, and the university needs to be a part of that,“ he said, referring to the trip Gov. Terry Branstad made to Asia in June.
Mason said the trip was an overall success.
“So we had an amazing time, we connected with a lot of friends of the university, a lot of alumni, we did a lot of events, I think we spread a lot of good will and a lot of positive University of Iowa,” she said. “And we did get to see the Great Wall.”