Big Story on Big 10 Campuses

Posted on: October 3, 2013

09-16_ImportedChina_67_editThis time of year if you talk about the big story on Big 10 campuses, people might assume it must be about football. In the halls of the CAS building last night and in the headlines of several newspapers however, the big story is the significant increase in the number of Chinese students on Big 10 campuses.

Always ahead of the curve, two CAS faculty members noted this impending trend several years ago and launched work on a documentary. Geri Alumit Zeldes (Journalism) and Troy Hale (Telecommunication, Information Studies & Media), both with the college's Media Sandbox, along with students who worked on the film, held the premiere of their new documentary, "Imported from China," last night.

Publicized earlier in the week in community newspapers, MSU Today, CAS News and featured on WKAR's Current State yesterday morning, the topic definitely caught the interest of students and faculty across campus, and local residents. Hosted by the Media Sandbox, guests not only filled the auditorium, but two overflow rooms as well.

When Zeldes and Hale embarked on making this documentary in the summer of 2011, they knew they were on to something big. In 2006, only 96 undergraduate students at MSU were from China. This 2013-14 academic year, that number is closer to 4,000 students from China, comprising 13 percent of the overall undergraduate population.

What appears to be an emerging trend on MSU's campus is also true of the Big 10. Of the top 20 universities with the largest numbers of Chinese international students, eight are from the Big 10.

With MSU ranking ninth in the nation for the number of enrolled international students (Institute of International Education, 2012), MSU President Simon attributes this to the university's "long-running emphasis on global engagement and competency."

Clearly this rapid increase in students from China also reflects the growth in China's economy and its increasing emphasis on education to fill the demand for a more highly educated and skilled workforce. Most international students pursue business, followed by engineering and natural science.

As Zeldes and Hale note with excitement, they are thrilled that they began documenting this trend before others started taking note. Their film tells the story of making the transition from China to MSU's campus from a student's point of view over a two-year period.

Part of why the timing of the film is so fortunate, is that students, faculty and administrators across campus and the nation are trying to better understand how to make this transition easier for incoming students at a scale not experienced before. The language and cultural transitions not only occur in the classroom, but also with local businesses, housing and food services, transportation and socially. Every aspect of campus and community life helps shape the overall experience.

While working through those transitions can involve some high-anxiety moments, it presents an amazing learning opportunity for our students, faculty and the MSU community at large. It also illustrates why documentaries can be such a compelling and relevant form of scholarship. They capture important moments in time and open them up for community conversations and an increased understanding of the people and issues involved.

Congratulations to Geri Zeldes, Troy Hale and the Media Sandbox for making this opportunity possible!

For those who were not able to see "Importing China" last night, please stay tuned as we plan additional opportunities to share this very timely documentary.

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