OSU, CAU part of a global community

We are fortunate to have 22 new students with us this academic year from China Agricultural University (CAU). These students began their undergraduate program two years ago at CAU, enrolled in a joint degree program in agribusiness with Oklahoma State University. They studied for two years at CAU, with all of their courses taught in English. They will study at OSU for this year and next year, with the goal of graduating in May, 2017, with a degree in agribusiness from OSU and from CAU.

Transfer Ceremony[700]

Another cohort of students are scheduled to arrive next fall, and thereafter, we plan to have two cohorts from CAU enrolled at OSU each year. Because the CAU students are enrolled in the agribusiness major, this program has been developed with careful planning from Dr. Michael Woods and his colleagues in our Department of Agricultural Economics. In addition, Dr. Damona Doye, Dr. Bryan Adams, Dr. Shida Henneberry, Dr. Joe Schatzer, and Dr. Tracy Boyer have helped to develop the program and have travelled to Beijing to meet with the students and our collaborating faculty and administrators at CAU. Associate Dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources Dr. Cynda Clary and Assistant Dean of CASNR Dr. Steve Damron have helped facilitate the coordination of this program throughout its development.

I had the good fortune to meet with my counterpart at CAU this summer, Dr. Guanhua Huang, Dean of the International College Beijing at CAU, and his associates who have helped to launch this program in Beijing. I participated in a transfer ceremony at the end of the university’s academic year in June, when the participants in this year’s cohort received certificates and a send-off from CAU. Also participating in the program were Dr. David Henneberry, Dr. Michael Woods, and Ms. Vivian Wang of OSU.

One of the highlights of my visit to CAU in June was to meet with an OSU student who ventured to Beijing in 2014 to spend a year studying with the CAU cohort in Beijing. Hannah McReynolds decided she wanted to challenge herself by going to learn in another country and another culture. She was well received by the students at CAU and is back in Stillwater this year, serving as a resident adviser to the CAU students in their dormitories. Hannah demonstrated it is possible for an OSU student to spend a year learning in China and continue to make progress toward degree requirements while being immersed in life far different from her home in Oklahoma. CAU faculty and administration welcome more OSU students to spend a semester or a year studying abroad at their university.

The scholars who have joined us at OSU are excellent students and quite comfortable learning in English. They have a great deal of enthusiasm, a great work ethic, and a dedication to excellence in their studies. They seem to be immersing themselves in the OSU culture, and I enjoy seeing them at many different events around campus and around Stillwater.

Dr. Woods tapped Academic Program Coordinator Arakssi Arshakian, who earned her graduate degree from the OSU School of International Studies, to help carry out the orientation and integration of CAU students to life and study at OSU and in Stillwater. I asked Arakssi to share some of her initial reactions to the arrival and transition of our students from Beijing.
Her guest blog is included as a companion to this piece. I greatly appreciate the work Arakssi has done to help our new students feel at home and comfortable. Her sensitivity to what it is like to come from a different culture has helped our CAU students adapt quickly and effectively.

Group pic 2

A very warm welcome
Guest blog by Arakssi Arshakian

On Friday, August 7, I was waiting in the airport holding a sign that said Welcome CAU-OSU Students. I watched students each walk at different pace in the hallway, confusion evident on their faces. However, the confusion immediately turned into a smile and a look of relief when they read the sign and heard my enthusiastic greeting. I thought to myself, “this is real; the 22 students are here from China Agricultural University.”

The students arrived on a sweltering hot August day to a place that is not as busy as Beijing. One of the first things they decided was that there is nothing to do in Stillwater. I thought the same thing when I came here six years ago as a graduate student that grew up in big city. Within a few weeks I realized how wrong my initial impression had been. I knew they also would discover this but I wanted them to make their own conclusions. Therefore, I kept the “good news” to myself for the moment.

Their native culture is quite different from that of the United States. Although they took all of their courses in English in their first two years in China and encountered American faculty, actually living on American soil is a different experience. They are adapting quickly, though, thanks to their determination and help of our departmental orientation sessions, ongoing academic advice, assigned student mentors, and planned events and activities. Progress is witnessed on various levels in their lives. Here are a few of those highlights:

On the academic level
I hear comments from students saying classes are not too difficult and that they desire more challenge. To me this is very encouraging. The students are adapting to the American university classroom setting, which is typically quite different than in China, and are excellent at asking questions and participating in class discussions. Most of the students are immersing themselves into the University culture by joining student organizations and clubs, and forming friendships with their classmates. Several of them are seeking internship opportunities and participated in mock interviews on campus. The majority of the students are already considering graduate school, and their different options upon completion of their undergraduate degree.

On the cultural level
Each student’s spoken English has improved significantly within the short time they have been here. Some of them have even adopted American slang (scary!). Some of the students have learned about American culture by attending a home football game. American football is not as popular in China so naturally some of them do not know all the rules. As a result of this, some left the stadium at the end of the game not knowing which team won. Still, they had fun and they will learn. I was proud they decided to participate in something unfamiliar and check this “American football thing” out.

On the personal level
The students appreciate the fact they have the freedom to make their own choices and decisions. This is something they have not experienced in such vast amount before coming here. This major shift comes with challenges but I know they appreciate having the freedom of choices. I am confident this is going to add value to their personal growth.

This is just the beginning and I am excited for the future of this program as we develop and expand. Studying at an American university can be a rewarding experience and my desire for these students is for them to make the most of the opportunity. It is a personal honor to be able to serve in this role where I can help the students, watch them grow as young adults, and learn from them.

One student’s answer to the question, “why OSU?”

I have an optimistic outlook on the world and one of the reasons I do is because I’m in a profession that introduces me to tomorrow’s leaders. And there are two times of the year when I am most optimistic: when new students (and faculty) arrive on campus, and when students graduate to enter their professions. We’re currently in the first of those, and I had an opportunity to meet with a new student who embodies the attributes that give me confidence for our future. We have more than 500 new freshmen students and more than 250 transfer students in our college this fall. Every one of those students feeds my optimism, so it’s tempting to write about all of them. I thought I’d step back from that task and share one student’s story. Her story represents the promise, enthusiasm and experience of our large group of new students.


Alexandria Schut

Let me introduce you to Alexandria Schut. Alexandria is a freshman majoring in Animal Science, planning on completing an option in Agribusiness and a minor in Agricultural Economics. Alexandria is from Belding, Michigan, and has had her sights on attending OSU for several years. Her journey to Stillwater was delayed for a year because she had been involved in leadership in FFA, having served as President of Michigan FFA. She previously served as President of her Caledonia High School Chapter and President of Region V FFA. She has been active in showing livestock, and has travelled the country, showing hogs, goats, and her favorite, sheep. Just this summer, she was honored with the high individual award in the Michigan Livestock Expo state livestock judging contest and won overall goat showmanship at the Expo.

As you can tell from this brief summary, Alexandria has a knack for leading, and is deeply committed to agriculture. I asked what possessed her to leave Michigan in order to attend OSU, and she shared that the way agriculture is valued and featured at OSU had a big part in her decision to travel so far from home. But she also said that it was the atmosphere that really drew her to Stillwater. She said it feels like she has a second family here, and that “people want you to be here.”

One of the great challenges for first-year students is to figure out how to maintain a balance between
their scholastic pursuits and their extra-curricular activities. Although we’re only three weeks into the semester, Alexandria has already aligned herself with several student organizations, including Block and Bridle club, and volunteer work with others in her residence hall at the Humane Society of Stillwater. She told me that academics come first, and she wants to be sure to maintain her status in the Honors College. But she also said that she wants to remain active in the livestock arena, and will be showing sheep at two national shows this fall, and at a third over the holiday break between semesters.

I’m not sure that Alexandria has found that balance yet. She was selected for the President’s Leadership Council (PLC), and that has her involved in some extra activities, including a group service project, individual service projects, and the PLC leadership class. But she remains committed to “scholastics first,” and given the busy schedule she had in high school and following graduation, I’m confident she will be able to manage it all.

I am deeply honored that students choose to attend OSU and to enroll in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. She and her classmates will be leaders in agriculture, natural resources and communities in the near future. We are fortunate to have four years to learn with and from these leaders of tomorrow. Their parents and home communities help to prepare them for the mantle of leadership. And we get to help them develop those leadership skills further while they study for their life’s work here at OSU. If I ever start to worry about the future of our industries, our communities, our state, nation or world, I find it comforting to look around me and see so many students like Alexandria who will help us address the challenges we face, and to move forward to make our industries, communities and world better.