|Zhibo Wang, left, and Kevin Vicker|
While Eastern Illinois University has long appreciated the impact that dedicated alumni can have on potential students, few of those alumni actually operate their own EIU office.
Zhibo Wang is the exception.
Wang, who once came from China to study at EIU, now teaches in the Foreign Language Department at Linyi University, an institution that, like Eastern, began as a small teachers’ college. Currently, the university, located in the Shandong Province, offers 62 different undergraduate degrees to more than 30,000 students.
Actually, “the idea of an EIU office in Linyi University was the idea of our dean, Professor Xie Nan,” Wang said. “I am the person who spends a lot of time in the EIU office. I translate the transcripts, teach (students) how to write personal statements and explain the differences in our two systems, as well as the costs of attending and the procedures for applying.
“The job market here does not seem very hopeful overall, and the graduate schools in China are so hard to get in,” he said. “It is a good idea to have an (EIU) office here in Linyi University because, right now, our university is very keen on sending students to foreign countries and we have to find places for them to go.”
Wang recalled his own experience of leaving China to study in the United States. “I applied to about five American universities and EIU was the first to admit me,” Wang said. Eastern also offered him an assistantship, as well as a lot of faculty mentoring.
When he arrived on Eastern’s campus in August 1996, “Dr. Linda Callendrillo was the director of the English Department’s Writing Center where I worked as a graduate assistant,” he recalled. “She gave me very useful instructions. I also often met with Dr. Mark Christhilf when I studied late in the night; he gave me advice on study and work.”
And, “Dr. Susan Bazargan was my thesis adviser who was so patient in helping me with my writing skills,” he added.
Now Wang’s role is reversed; he is the instructor. At Linyi University, where he has been employed for the past 13 years, he teaches English writing, English literature, intensive and extensive reading, listening and linguistics.
As head of the EIU office at Linyi, Wang said the biggest problem he faces is “extending (his department’s) influence to other schools” within the university. With more interdisciplinary interest, given the size of the institution as a whole, he feels it shouldn’t be too difficult to get 10 students or so to attend Eastern annually.
To help with this goal, Wang has enlisted the help of his American alma mater.
Earlier this year, he requested that Eastern send a representative – preferably the president or one of the vice presidents – to Linyi to present a couple of lectures. William Weber, vice president of business affairs at the time of the request, volunteered, offering to make the trip on Eastern’s behalf.
“Knowing that I was planning to retire at the end of May, I suspected I’d have some extra time that the others wouldn’t,” Weber said. In July, he presented two lectures – one on the structure and operation of U.S. universities and a second titled “Leadership, Negotiation and Talent Development.”
Weber said the audiences included 60 to 75 middle administrators – primarily department chairs -- from Linyi University. “I’m glad I did it,” he added, although the presentations were not as interactive as he would have liked, given the language differences.
“Dr. Weber’s visit to Linyi University was a great success,” Wang said. “He gave lectures to management staff and his concepts of management were absolutely new us. Everybody listened carefully to him. I attended one of his lectures and I think it was insightful.”
Kevin Vicker, director of International Students and Scholars at Eastern, also visited Linyi earlier this year, and was able to speak with students – both one-on-one and in lecture-type settings.
“I talked about Eastern; Mr. Wang talked about Eastern,” Vicker said. “Several students filled out applications.”
According to Wang, he received more than a dozen applications from individuals interested in attending Eastern. “But then, after they went home, many of them changed their mind,” he said. “I feel bad about that.
“But a lot of them found good jobs and decided not to study in the U.S. They changed their mind not because they did not like Eastern or because we did anything wrong. It’s just that good jobs are so rare nowadays,” he said.
One person who did make it to Eastern this fall was Derek Pang Shousheng, a Linyi University faculty member who arrived in Charleston as a visiting scholar. Much of his time on EIU’s campus is being spent observing classes and learning teaching techniques that he can use when he returns to teaching English at Linyi University in the spring.
“We are very thankful for that,” Wang said. “Many of our teachers have not been to an English-speaking country and the opportunity to do so greatly enhances their ability in teaching.
“Our university, especially the Foreign Language School, needs a lot of American teachers with doctoral or master’s degrees in various fields. Our dean, Xie Nan, expressed such a hope when she met with Dr. Weber months ago. He, for example, is very good at economics and management, and would meet the needs of our English for economics and trade majors.
“The dean would like to see many more such teachers come to Linyi University.”