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Saint Mary’s signs Memorandum of Understanding with the Shandong Women’s University, agreeing to partner in student and faculty exchange programs

| Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Guo Cuifen, president of Shandong Women’s University, joined by a delegation of visiting deans and faculty members from the university, joined Saint Mary’s College Interim President Nancy Nekvasil Monday in signing a Memorandum of Understanding to pursue research collaborations and exchange programs.

Photo courtesy of Alice Siqin Yang.
On Monday, Interim President Nancy Nekvasil and Guo Cuifen, president of the Shandong Women’s University, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to pursue research collaboration and create exchange programs for students and faculty.

“The cooperation between our two universities will provide a broader vision of our world and women’s development, and enhance women’s welfare,” Cuifen said.

The Shandong Women’s University, located in Jinan, Shandong Province in China, is one of the three women’s universities in China offering undergraduate education for women. With more than 15,000 students currently enrolled, it is the largest women’s university in China.

Founded in 1952 as a women’s leadership training school, the university now maintains 20 schools and offers 30 majors, including education, law, management, economics, art, literature, culture and communications, tourism, accounting and information and technology.

Alice Siqin Yang, director of the Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership (CWIL) at Saint Mary’s, said the memorandum is a formal agreement establishing a partnership between the College and Shandong Women’s University.

“The purpose is to develop academic and educational cooperation and to promote mutual understanding,” Yang said in an email. “It is more formal than a verbal agreement, but it does not establish a formal legal relationship between the parties.”

In signing this memorandum, Cuifen and Nekvasil agreed to work together in creating faculty and student exchange programs, joint research projects, teacher training, study abroad opportunities and dual-degree programs.

“The delegation’s visit was very successful,” Yang said in the email. “They met with more than 20 faculty members and administrators on Monday and discussed a wide range of potential projects and programs. The partnership offers an opportunity for Saint Mary’s students and faculty to study, teach or do research at Shandong Women’s University.”

Each semester, both institutions can send two students to the opposite host university, free of tuition, Cuifen said. Faculty will participate in a similar program, lasting up to one year, she said.

Shandong Women’s University hopes to collaborate with Saint Mary’s in creating a dual degree program in early childhood education, as they currently have more than 1,700 students enrolled in this major, Yang said.

“They are also interested in our courses/programs in business and administration, data science, art, gender/women’s studies, English, [and] social work, as well as the work completed by the Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership,” she said in the email.

This new relationship resulted from the College’s long-term partnership with China Women’s University in Beijing, on whose campus Saint Mary’s students and alumnae participated in cultural exchange activities, Yang said. Both China Women’s University and Shandong Women’s University are members of the Chinese Women’s University League.

According to its website, Shandong Women’s University promotes the development of specialized women’s and gender research, and has won the All-China Women’s Federation “China Women’s Research Excellent Organization Reward.” The Shandong Women’s University Journal has also been noted as an “Excellent Social Science Journal of National Universities.”

Cuifen and others at the university have conducted practical and theoretical research on women’s rights and gender equality. Additionally, she participated in the drafting and revising of local laws and regulations on women’s rights, filling a leadership role in the “12th Five-Year Plan” for the development of women and children in Shandong Province.

“As a women’s higher education institution, both institutions share the mission of educating high-quality women students and future women leaders,” Yang said in the email. “Women should not only have access to higher education, but also have opportunities to develop their potential, talents and leadership to make a difference in the world. We would like to work with more women’s colleges around the world to promote women’s education.”

At the reception dinner following the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding, Saint Mary’s faculty members presented the delegation with the College’s study abroad shirt, which read, “Women Going Global – Building Bridges for Global Peace,” Yang said.

“We hope to maintain our institutional sisterhood to make a better and more peaceful world together,” she said.

Editor’s Note: Cui Xiaohong, a professor of English language and literature at Shandong Women’s University, acted as Guo Cuifen’s English translator during her interview with The Observer.

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About Maeve Filbin

Maeve is a senior studying political science and economics at Saint Mary's, as well as Journalism, Ethics and Democracy at Notre Dame. She serves as an Assistant Managing Editor of The Observer, and thinks everyone should support student journalism.

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