This past June, Temple held alumni receptions throughout Asia to promote its presence globally, specifically in China. Many members of Temple’s delegation attended, including Provost Hai-Lung Dai and President Neil Theobald.
Since Spring 2010, my career and travels have brought me to China on a full-time basis. Although the journey that led me to China has been a difficult one, it has been fruitful, as I developed and refined my life and skills personally and professionally while I have been here. Since graduation, and especially since I have been in China, I have had very little contact with Temple’s alumni relations office and its programs.
After a year and a half in China studying Mandarin, I decided to explore Temple as a way to branch out and expand my knowledge of various career opportunities and paths that could benefit from my expertise here. It was then I found out about the alumni reception.
And unfortunately, I found out a lot about the objectives of “higher education” in the 21st century.
I attended a recent reception held at a traditional “da ting,” a large reception hall for banquets in China. Shanghai cuisine, along with some wine, helped ease what was a somewhat tense and nervous scene at first. Having no clue what to expect given the 10-word invitation, I hoped to make some connections and learn something about the locals’ experiences at Temple.
Like most Chinese networking events, the focus was on the success stories of alumni from companies such as Ford Asia and the experiences of the provost and president doing business. Like security guards, hefty development officers stood in the corners of the room glistening with sweat and their “T” lapel pins shining in the light.
After the greetings and pep talks were done, I wanted to find out more about what the purpose of the trip was and how it would affect Temple in the future. It was not long after my initial approach that this weary group of delegates had their sights set on closing the event and getting a good night’s rest en route to their third city in two days, with the next city being Beijing.
Needless to say, there was little information conveyed about a plan from the presentation of the delegation. It was little more than a promotion to fundraise and promote enrollment; a major effort of travel and planning for an hour and a half of networking all done at the Westin Hotel in Shanghai’s most prestigious district, the Bund, on one night.
A week later, I got back in touch with a senior member of Temple’s international development team to express interest in my involvement in their recruiting efforts. After a little bit of selling, I found out that she and the provost would be in Beijing, as Dai’s services would be badly needed.
How strange that a development effort that started four weeks prior required some of the same members of the delegation to return. Could this time have been spent in Philadelphia, accruing less overhead and less of a burden on the department’s budget?
If Temple’s provost is serious about building a strong relationship with China that will grow not only the incoming but outgoing student body, it needs to give serious thought to holding more events to promote its programs that already exist with universities in mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The university could perhaps even take a page from European education standards and require a rigorous immersion program to complete a successful study program.
The “China dream” isn’t going away anytime soon, and applications from Asia to U.S. and other western universities will flow for some time. If the administration’s stance is purely to raise overseas enrollment and fundraise abroad, “Temple Tough” might be a slogan best used for students who will need to be strong if they are not already equipped to deal with the realities of post-graduate America.
Ethan Jacoby is a STHM graduate of the Class of 2002.