UWM signs preliminary agreement to increase number of international students

The signing of an agreement with CERNET Education Development Co., LTD, in Beijing.

UWM Provost Johanes Britz (seated, left), and Chancellor Michael R. Lovell at the signing of an agreement with CERNET Education Development Co., LTD, in Beijing. Also present were former Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle (behind Lovell) and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is taking the first step toward an agreement that could eventually bring hundreds of Chinese students to UWM to study.

Chancellor Michael Lovell signed a preliminary agreement Dec. 6 with the CERNET Education Development Co., LTD, at its offices in Beijing to collaborate in the recruitment of Chinese students to UW-Milwaukee. CERNET Educational Development is a wholly-owned subsidiary of CERNET Co., LTD, a company founded by the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. CERNET plans to establish a Wisconsin International Academy (WIA) in Milwaukee to provide support services for the students.

The agreement was approved the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents for review at its meeting Dec. 8 and 9 in Madison. If approved by the Board of Regents, the agreement would bring 30 to 50 Chinese students to Milwaukee in the fall 2012 semester to study English through UWM’s Intensive English Program (IEP). An additional 100 to 150 would arrive in fall 2013, with the numbers eventually increasing to 250 students by the fall of 2015. CERNET would establish separate housing for the WIA students in the greater Milwaukee area.

The goal of the program will be to have students go on to enroll in undergraduate and graduate programs at UWM. It is expected that more than 75 percent of students who complete the intensive English program will enroll at UWM. CERNET has seen similar success at the University of Massachusetts, which has a program called MAIA (Massachusetts International Academy).

“UWM is striving to become more internationally and globally engaged,” says Chancellor Lovell, “and is committed to recruiting students from all areas of the world, particularly from vital international partners such as China.” At the same time, China is seeking more international education experiences for students, especially in the United States. CERNET will collaborate with UWM in recruiting the Chinese students and translating marketing materials into Mandarin Chinese.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who also will be in China next week, said, “The City of Milwaukee welcomes this new relationship between CERNET and the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. Chinese students will find Milwaukee is a great place to advance their education. Students who come to Milwaukee for higher education become some of our city’s strongest advocates, so I am optimistic this new arrangement will lead to greater international commercial and cultural benefits.”

The Chinese students recruited through CERNET will become part of an increasingly international campus. Currently UWM has more than 1,000 international students from 94 different countries. The university’s International Council, which includes representatives from every school and college on campus, is working to identify strategies to make UWM more international. Among many recommendations, the Council proposed that UWM expand the number of international students within the campus community by incorporating target numbers for international students in UWM’s enrollment management plan and growth agenda. The Council also recommended organizing more study and research exchange programs abroad, and promoting UWM to an international audience.

UWM’s Intensive English Program currently serves students from more than 30 countries speaking 20 different languages. Students who demonstrate proficiency in English through this program can then move into undergraduate and graduate programs.

The initial agreement with CERNET, which will be presented to the Board of Regents for acceptance at the December meeting, is for five years.

“UWM needs to prepare its students, both domestic and international, to face the professional, social and civic challenges of an increasingly interdependent world,” says Johannes Britz, UWM Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. “The CERNET agreement is one major step in helping us make the student-learning experience at UWM more international across the curriculum and providing high-quality on-campus and overseas courses, and co-curricular opportunities.”

As Wisconsin’s premier public urban institution, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee enjoys a growing national reputation for excellence in research, teaching and community engagement. On an operating budget of $680 million, it educates approximately 30,000 students and is an engine of innovation for Southeastern Wisconsin. The 104-acre main campus and satellite sites are located in the economic and cultural heart of the state. The university’s recent expansion includes new academic and research facilities and the creation of the only School of Freshwater Sciences in the United States and the Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health.