Between 20 and 40 Bowie State University students will have the opportunity to study abroad in China free of charge thanks to a partnership formally established in July between China and eight historically black colleges and universities.
A “memorandum of understanding” signed by the Chinese education department and HBCU representatives will provide 1,000 scholarships for students from up to 50 of the 105 HBCUs in the United States, said BSU provost Weldon Jackson.
The Bowie school plans to award the scholarships to between five and 10 students each year of the four-year program, and students will have the chance to study abroad in China for up to two academic years, Jackson said.
The program will be BSU’s first official study-abroad program as well as its first partnership with an international government, Jackson said.
“We certainly believe in the global component of our students’ education and we try as best we can to internationalize the campus and our curriculum,” he said. “The opportunity to send students to China for various periods of time will in fact allow us to deliver on that promise.”
Damita Chambers, a public relations official for the university, said the school plans to launch the program in mid-2015.
“This [MOU] was just sort of laying the groundwork for the program,” she said. “We’re hoping our first cohort of students would actually get to visit China in the summer of 2015.”
Chambers said the trip would mark the first time BSU officially sent students to China.
Jackson said the Chinese government was the impetus behind the program and sought out the collaboration even though schools like Bowie State University don’t currently have the funds to reciprocate and host Chinese students in America. Tuition for out-of-state BSU students, not including room and board, was approximately $9,000 last year, according to the school’s website.
“[China] wanted to start a dialogue with us over the next several years,” Jackson said. “They looked at the landscape and they know there is a huge demographic shift in their country and they are looking to engage.”
Andre P. Stevenson, chair of the social work department at BSU, said he has led groups of students on short international learning trips to Cuba and South Africa this year and thinks the campus is moving toward a more global perspective.
While the trips Stevenson led were different than study abroad programs, which are typically longer and include classroom instruction, Stevenson said any international exposure can give students a broader perspective on their course of study as well as increasing students’ marketability.
“[Global interaction] allows students to become international in their approach to practice and policy,” he said. “I think that’s important for personal reasons, economic reasons, political and social reasons. Global interaction is very important.”