IIE Networker - Spring 2010 - (Page 27)

A New Frontier in China for the University of Montana By Sarah J. Halvorson and Steven I. Levine WHEN THE UNIVERSITY of Montana con- sidered expanding its academic ties with the People’s Republic of China in recent years, it looked west to Xinjiang. The first question that Americans usually ask with regard to this region of high mountains, broad deserts, and fertile oases is: “Where is it?” The second is: “How do you pronounce it?” This vast Eurasian crossroads, to borrow historian James Millward’s appellation, is located in China’s far northwest and is pronounced “Sinjohng” in putonghua (standard Chinese). Xinjiang means “new frontier.” Three times the size of France and comprising one-sixth of China’s territory, it is sometimes referred to as Eastern Turkestan, a term the Chinese government has proscribed because it smacks of ethnic separatism, a recurrent problem ever since Xinjiang was incorporated as a province into the Qing (Manchu) empire in 1884. Xinjiang, through which both the northern and southern routes of the ancient Silk Road pass, is rich in natural resources and home to an ethnically and linguistically diverse population of some 21 million people. Around 60 percent are Muslims (e.g., Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kirghiz, Hui, Tajiks, and Uzbeks) and the rest largely Han Chinese. Most of the latter migrated into Xinjiang in the past sixty years, tilting the ethnic balance away from the Uyghurs, whose percentage of the population dropped from roughly 75 percent in 1947 to about 40 percent at present. Xinjiang’s Similar geography is one of several reasons The University of Montana looked west to partner with Xinjiang Normal University. think of establishing relations with their counterpart institutions in China, they usually focus on Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin. Yet, just as the United States is far more than its eastern seaboard, so China is far more than the Beijing-Tianjin-Shanghai corridor. Moreover, Montana and Xinjiang share certain important features and problems that invite comparative study. Among these are large, relatively thinly-populated territories (including large minorities— in Montana’s case, Native Americans); a dependence on agriculture, stock-raising, and extractive industries; and pressing concerns about managing scarce water resources, preserving natural environments, developing alternative energy, and promoting sustainable tourism. estry, environmental studies, wildlife biology, mountain societies, and, surprisingly, East Asia. The latter interest, unusual in an inland state with a small ethnic Asian population, is due to the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center, named after Montana’s most famous political couple. Mike Mansfield (1903-2001), a sometime professor of Far Eastern history at UM in the 1930s, had a distinguished career in Congress as Senate Majority Leader and Ambassador to Japan. His lifelong interest and expertise in Asian affairs was shared by his wife Maureen. UM’s academic link in Xinjiang is a work in progress. In 2006 the enthusiasm of a group of UM faculty and local high school teachers that took a field trip to Xinjiang on a Fulbright Group Project radiated throughout the university town of Missoula. UM administrators identified Xinjiang Normal University (XNU), a comprehensive university in the regional capital of Urumqi, as a desirable academic partner. Preliminary negotiations between UM and XNU officials culminated in an official visit to Urumqi by UM’s peripatetic president George M. Dennison and other university administrators in 2007, during which a broad-gauged Memorandum of Understanding was signed that laid the foundation for cooperation. Just as the United States is far more than its eastern seaboard, so China is far more than the Beijing-Tianjin-Shanghai corridor. traditional oasis-based agriculture is irrigated by snow melt from its high mountains, while modern petroleum, mining, and industrial agriculture sectors provide employment to its growing population. What motivated UM’s interest in Xinjiang? When most American universities UM, a public institution with a student population of 15,000 in what is still a predominantly rural and agricultural state, has dramatically expanded its international connections over the past fifteen years. Even so, it remains focused on issues of special interest to Montana, including for-

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IIE Networker - Spring 2010

IIE Networker - Spring 2010
Message from Allan E. Goodman
IIE Networker University Presidents Interview Series: Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, President, National University of Singapore (NUS)
2010 IIE Andrew Heiskell Awards: Best Practices in International Education
U.S.-India Exchange: Ready for a “New Era”?
Using Social Media to Recruit Indian Students Rahul Choudaha, World
Advancing Sustainability: Alcoa Foundation ProgramServes as Catalyst for Greater International Collaboration for Universities
A New Frontier in China for the University of Montana
The View from Vietnam: Perceptions of Prospective
When Meaningful Partnerships Work: Developing World-Class Indonesian Geoscientists
Rising Demand from Southeast Asian Professionals for Tertiary Executive Education Programs: When Quality Matters
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IIE Program Profile

IIE Networker - Spring 2010